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90/335 Flying helmet, leather, probably made in England, used by Nancy Bird Walton, Australia, after 1945. Click to enlarge.

Flying helmet worn by Nancy Bird Walton after 1945

    This flying helmet was used by Australia's most well-known female aviator, the late Nancy Bird Walton (1915-2009). It was part of the protective clothing required of pilots in the early decades of aviation when flying was undertaken in open cockpits exposed to the elements. By all accounts of Nancy's early aviation career, flying this way was all part of the attraction and exhilaration. Consequently, the flying helmet captures and personifies Nancy's love of flying.

    Born in 1915, Nancy became …


    Object No.


    Object Statement

    Flying helmet, leather, probably made in England, used by Nancy Bird Walton, Australia, after 1945

    Physical Description

    Flying helmet of dark blue painted leather lined with machine sewn cotton fabric and with a chin strap and buckle. There are press stud retainers sewn on either side of the helmet to secure flying goggles straps so that they would not blow off in the wind. The helmet features ear shields fitted with fine metal net on the inside of the helmet and brass plate buttons on the outside.



    270 mm


    260 mm


    250 mm




      The earliest flying helmets were adapted from those worn by motorcycle riders. They offered a degree of protection from the elements and kept the head warm from the icy blasts for both pilots and passengers sitting in open cockpits. Leather had the advantage of being warm, flexible enough to fit the curve of the wearer's head, durable, dustproof, weatherproof and to a certain extent, fireproof.

      As aircraft developed so too did the flying helmet design. Modifications were made to take a Gosport tube which was chrome or stainless earpiece that connected to a speaking tube to enable conversation with others in the cockpit. However, both wind and engine noise limited the effectiveness of this.



      Nancy Bird Walton wore this flying helmet after 1945 when flying in various types of aircraft with open cockpits.

      The helmet was donated to the Museum in 1990 by Nancy Bird Walton, along with Nancy's flying goggles (object number 90/334).


      Credit Line

      Gift of Mrs Nancy Bird Walton, OA OBE, 1990

      Acquisition Date

      30 March 1990

      Cite this Object


      Flying helmet worn by Nancy Bird Walton after 1945 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 3 December 2021, <>


      {{cite web |url= |title=Flying helmet worn by Nancy Bird Walton after 1945 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=3 December 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}