Original U.S. Korean War US Navy Helicopter Crewman D-8 Flight Helmet by Bill Jack Scientific Instrument Co

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Now this is a rare example of a seldom seen early Korean War USN Helicopter Crewman D-8 flight helmet shell. This helmet was manufactured by Bill Jack Scientific Instrument Company some time in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

There is extensive information online regarding Bill Jack and the JAHCO (Jack & Heintz Co) business he formed in 1940 with partner Ralph Heintz. After attempting a start-up in Palo Alto California, the 2 men moved the business to Bedford Ohio after a rift with the local California machinists union. The company grew from 37 employees in 1940 to 8700 in 1942 as it manufactured aircraft parts for use in the war effort. After making record-breaking profits, government auditors claimed illegal accounting methods had been employed. This led Bill Jack and Ralph Heintz to sell JAHCO Precision Tool in 1946 for $8M in a deal with B.C. Milner and Byron C. Foy; Bill Jack's portion was 75% and Ralph Heintz received 25%. In 2004 dollars this would be $84M for Bill Jack and, with annual profits for the previous years, he would have accrued over $25M in 1946 dollars, a sum equivalent to $350M in 2004 dollars. The sale also provided Mr. Jack with a salary of $40K a year for three years plus the ability to occupy an office at the factory and rights to the employee program (benefits).

Mr. Heintz, as inventor and engineer, was a more passive figure and eventually moved back to his home in the San Francisco Bay Area but Mr. Jack stayed on in Cleveland. At the factory, now making fractional horsepower electric motors and bearings, he wanted to continue to use the microphone that broadcast audio throughout what he probably still regarded as "his" factory to speak to workers on whatever topic he thought would help productivity. Management reined Mr. Jack in and stopped him from using his previous management methods, this upset him so much that he resigned in a spat.

One of the Bill Jack Scientific flight helmets resides in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It was worn by William P. "Bill" Suitor when he served as the rocket belt pilot for Bell Aerosystems from March 1964 to June 1970 where he set records for flying with a rocket belt.

No photo of this mask is online but the Smithsonian webpage describes the mask: "Overall, fiberglass shell; nylon chin strap with non-ferrous buckle; foam strip around face opening."

The one-piece shell of helmets made in this era consisted of layers of fiberglass cloth arranged on a form with polymeric resin applied in layers then, when cured, the edges trimmed and it is polished then painted, altogether a process requiring artistic skills and attention to detail. A foam liner is added for cushioning and for sound dampening and finally hardware for attaching communications devices and an oxygen mask is installed. Knowing these were made to government specifications meant QA inspections were probably done prior to a mask being accepted for use.

The San Diego Air & Space Museum has archived photos of a Bill Jack Scientific Instrument Co. helmet and its label.

Notable in this helmet is the wide, tinted plastic (polarized?) visor which provided an improved view compared to wearing goggles. This would also serve as protection from wind blast, the extreme pressure that occurs if an emergency seat ejection became necessary. Clearance is provided for an oxygen mask; pilots flying at or above around 14,000 feet require oxygen to prevent blackouts.

Goggles and visors employed were probably made by Polaroid Corp., that company provided most of the M-1944 goggles used by the government, both on ground and in the air. In 1929 Edwin Land patented a method for making polarized plastic and his Polaroid Corp. was a source for the plastic lenses used in face masks.

This D-8 helmet is unfortunately just a shell in need of a liner, which is not uncommon for these early small number produced helmets. The shell is in wonderful condition with an intact “Bill Jack” label on the back, as well as an intact nylon chin strap and the foam around the edge. There is no extensive damage present and the USN “wings” decal on the front is almost completely retained with very minor chipping and cracking present.

This is a wonderful and semi rare example of this D series helmet. Comes more than ready for further research and display!

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