French Airaile Type 11 Armée de L'Air Flying Helmet
In 1935 France commanded the largest military forces in the world although her flying helmets and goggles were somewhat out dated and based on WW1 designs. Despite this the ‘Airaile 11’ remained the standard issue pattern for the French Air Force during the 1930 and into WW11. A modified version of the same helmet was also issued to French Army paratroopers. This helmet was manufactured by E. Gueneau & Cie of Paris and interestingly the manufacturers paper label in the crown carries a late wartime date of 1/45, with the size marked at ‘58’. We speculate this is a pre war manufactured helmet re issued for use in the final stages of WW11. Certainly the basic design was also used post war in a modified form designated 'type Airele 15’. Our helmet is clearly pre war/wartime specification, confirmed by two metal clips mounted on the outer shell, above the receiver/Gosport tube cups, designed to take the French oxygen mask ‘Ulmer 12’. The helmet itself is made from am internal cork shell covered in chromed leather and has soft padded leather flaps to house Gosport tubes or radio receivers. Lacing within the crown of the helmet and to the rear facilitates size adjustment and press stud goggle straps are fitted at the rear of the helmet. The outer shell has a minor crease marks on top but otherwise the leather is in superb condition inside and out with no issues to report. The ear cup flaps when opened show roughly cut ear hole enlargements ;our French consultant advises this was a common period modification made by pilots or flight mechanics to upgrade the radio clarity coming from the receivers and proves the helmet has been issued and has seen service, which is also confirmed by the internal paper label which carries a handwritten ‘H 18’ as well as the initials to the crown R.H. who we assume to be an original owner. A less pristine example has recently sold at auction for EU 688 (c. £588) Ours is rather more competitively priced and as close to a text book example of an increasingly rare flying helmet we do not anticipate will be with us for long!