|Taping a flight helmet
can be very easy as long as you take your time and plan your taping
pattern ahead of actually doing it. After seeing hundreds of Naval
flight helmets and many different taping patterns, there seems to
be no set method of taping, but more of a personal choice. Actual
Naval taped helmets are done by Life Support personnel, different
squadrons will have different methods. On this HGU-68/P, it is patterned
after a "X" pattern seen on an adversary (Top Gun) pilot's
|As seen above in the
first photo, I have picked 2 spots on one side of the helmet that
have identical locations on the other side. In this case, I chose
in the front where the top of the leather "elephant ear"
meets the edgeroll across the forehead. At the rear, the corners
of the edgeroll where the nape corners (later photos will show area).
Picking these spots gives us a centered "X" in the back
of the shell. Please note that all hardware was removed from the
helmet. In order to have a neat job, this must be done, then reinstalled
|When working with the
reflective tape, do not "force" it too much. It may stick
for the time being, but if made to go in an unnatural direction
it will eventually bubble. Do not be afraid to pull the tape back
up in order to get a nicer line. It will be helpful not to press
the tape down firmly until you get it in the correct location that
you are happy with. In this photo, I have started from the forehead
area and began working back to the "X".
|At this point I have
laid down 7 strips. The 2 main "X" strips, and these 5
to fill in between the upper arms of the X. Note on the front strip's
roundness- this is from the curvature of the shell meeting the leather
edgeroll. Taping a helmet is all about "centers"
or "halves." For these cross strips, I found the
center and butted a strip against the previous one. Then working
my thumb from the center to each side, pressing firmly, you will
get an identical overlap due to the shell curvature.
|Here, the upper part
of the X is filled in with 7 cross strips. Notice how even the overlap
is on each of the cross strips. The length of each strip is figured
by first placing it on the helmet with the backing on. I ALWAYS
add some length for error from the MINIMUM amount needed
(perhaps 1 finger width each side). I do around 1/16th to 1/8th
inch overlap at the ends of each strip. It will be trimmed carefully
with a razor blade (photo below).
|After finishing the
top of the X pattern, we start on the lower part of the arms. Again,
stressing the idea of halves and making mirror images. The bottom
part is done in the same order as the top was. Starting at the widest
point and work your way up. Be VERY careful when using a razor blade
near the edgeroll. It is very helpful to use a fingernail to press
the tape as close to the edge as possible. Use minimal pressure
so you do not cut the leather or threading that secures it.
|In this photo, the overlap
on each strip is very evident. Notice how each piece is butted against
each other in the center, then allowed to follow the curvature and
overlap the previous piece. I constantly use my thumb nail to create
a deep crease in the tape where it overlaps. Only do this after
you are happy with the location of the tape.
|On the next piece in
this photo, I am shown working my thumb from the center out to each
side. As you can tell from the previous photos, I trim each piece
as I go. Always use caution when cutting tape on tape, as must be
done at the ends of the strips where they meet the legs of the X.
You only want to cut the overlapping piece- not the underlying piece.
|Here I am shown gingerly
trimming a cross strip to overlap the X leg around 1/16 of an inch.
I do not measure the overlap. Basically I just eye it and try to
keep it uniform.
|The upper and lower
sections of the X are completed. This was my first attempt at doing
the X pattern and I was quite happy with the results at this point.
Now was the decision on how to do the left & right sections.
I decided to do a different pattern on the sides, since the elephant
ears would be in the way of a simple cross strip pattern.
|In this photo, the forehead
of the helmet is to the right, the nape area is to the left. I have
already added 2 long strips along the side of the lower leg of the
X. Again, starting at the center of the lower right leg of
the X, I work the tape to the ends, allowing it to follow the curvature.
|After adding 3 strips,
I come to the first "obstruction," the leather elephant
ear. Although obstructions like this are a hassle to work around,
upon completion they make the tape job look great because they appear
to have been laid down ON the tape (instead of the tape being around
|I used 1 long strip
here because of that 1/8th inch gap seen between the previous strip
and the corner of the elephant ear. After this, you can use smaller
pieces for the top and bottom areas around the elephant ear.
|I went ahead and did
the top area around the elephant ear because it looked easier. Just
simply size the tape (leave room for error!), peel backing and lay
tape down, when happy with position press firmly, create creases
with thumbnail. Be very careful NOT to press tape onto leather
elephant ear or edgeroll- when removed it may damage leather.
Just crease with fingernail along the edge and you should be OK.
|At this point I have
started adding the strips to the lower section around the elephant
ear. Working my way forward from the back as I did at the top of
the elephant ear. Doing this, it should appear that a long single
strip is running beneath the leather elephant ear.
|Here is a great example
of the amount of overlap I allow for a piece of tape. As the length
of the strip of tape gets larger, so should your "error"
length. You can also see how I have creased the tape near the elephant
ear and edgeroll prior to trimming. Do not worry about taping over
holes for bayonet receivers, nape strap, etc- they will be easy
to find by feeling through the tape.
|After laying the piece
in the above photo, I realized the one inch tape was not going to
be wide enough to fill the last area in. Thinking ahead that I had
to reinstall the bayonet receivers, I made it so the area not covered
with tape would be under them. That saved from having a really small
piece of tape that might peel off (not to mention that it wouldn't
look very good). I have also trimmed around the integrated chin/nape
strap slot and other holes around the shell.
|This is my favorite
part of taping a helmet- adding the hardware back on and seeing
excellent results. Notice how the bayonet receiver covers the gap
in the tape shown in the above photo.
this is the other side of the helmet as I come to the elephant ear.
The single long strip has been laid down and creased at the elephant
ear & the edgeroll and is ready for trimming. Although hard
to tell in the photo, I have taken great care in not pressing the
tape to the leather elephant ear.
|The bottom edge already
cut with the razor blade, I crease the top edge with my thumbnail.
|Carefully cutting along
the edge of the elephant ear and removing the section of waste tape
slowly so as not to damage the leather- nice neat result. Now just
trim the waste tape at the edgeroll.
|The top section above
the elephant ear goes quickly and the helmet is finished. I will
run my thumb over each piece again to make sure it is firmly in
place. I will also go over each crease again to make sure it is
deep and crisp.
|Here all of the hardware
is going back on. The general location of the holes should be known-
knowing the general location feel for the edge of the hole. I prefer
to make an X in the hole rather than cutting a circle out- the X
allows the screw to go through but eliminates the possibility of
cutting too much tape out.
|A view of the back of
the shell. Do not worry if you can not get every piece to be a mirror
image of the other side. That would be very difficult and you would
waste a lot of tape trying over and over.
For this large HGU-68/P,
6.8 yards (or 20.4 feet / or 244.8 inches) of 1 inch reflective
tape was used- this includes "error" length allowed
at the end of each piece.
Reflective tape can be purchased here.