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Qantas pilots get new look

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 29, 2016

Pilots model the new uniform. (Duncan Killick via Qantas)
Pilots model the new uniform. (Duncan Killick via Qantas)

Captain Debbie Slade has been a Qantas pilot for 27 years and counting.

During that time, she has gone to work in a uniform that, while functional and practical, was never really designed for women pilots.

All that will change from October, when Slade will head into the flightdeck of the Airbus A330s she currently flies for Qantas in a new uniform from Australian designer Martin Grant that specifically caters for the airline’s female pilots.

Qantas pilot Captain Debbie Slade modelling the new uniform. (Jordan Chong)
Qantas pilot Captain Debbie Slade is all smiles with the new uniform. (Jordan Chong)

Slade, who modelled the new uniform at a runway fashion show held at Sydney’s Carriageworks on Friday, is thrilled with the new design.

“We have had a female uniform but it hasn’t been very feminine, it’s still been pretty boxy and a lot of the girls haven’t felt brilliant in it,” Slade told Australian Aviation after her stint as a runway model.


“This is the first time it has actually got a little bit of shape and design for the feminine figure rather than for a girl in a boys’ job.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Qantas announced in April 2015 Grant, the man responsible for the airline’s new cabin crew uniforms, had been commissioned to update its pilot uniforms. The result is the first new pilot uniform in 13 years.

Since then, the France-based designer has held focus groups, conducted online surveys and trialled fabrics and designs in flight simulators in an effort to come up with something that satisfied regulatory requirements and that Qantas pilots would enjoy wearing.

“They did trials in the simulator so that they could work out reaching and how much you’ve got to move and when you are sitting down in the trousers for 15 hours how they are going to feel and are they comfortable,” Slade explained.

“He really looked at how you are wearing it. It was fantastic consultation.”

Grant said the “traditional yet modern” design reflected the glamour of flying and suited pilots’ unique workplace environment.

One of the most significant challenges was coming up with a fabric that would pass tests for flammability and static, was washable and non-crushable.

“That was probably the longest development time actually, getting that right because it has to pass so many tests,” Grant explained to Australian Aviation.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and designer Martin Grant launch the new pilot uniforms. (Jordan Chong)
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and designer Martin Grant launch the new pilot uniforms. (Jordan Chong)

Grant described the task of incorporating the pilot ranks on the uniform as “fascinating”.

“For me it was more the original challenge was actually the codes involved in the uniform, so all of the insignia, all of the ranking, a lot of that which is aviation norm, they have to be identifiable,” Grant said.

“To have to work with those things and then tweak them slightly, so we ended up talking about millimetres of change and that for me as a designer is actually quite interesting.

“For me it was important to keep the overtones of the military heritage, because that is where the uniform comes from and I think they are very proud of that.”

“That came through in speaking to the pilots and it is how I felt as well.”

“They automatically command respect and it is one of the top five most respected professions in the workforce and so that was very important.”

Features of the new designs include a new waterproof white top hat with a gold embroidered badge using the Qantas kangaroo logo, golden wattle embroidery on captains’ hats, a new wing badge, and finer gold rank stripes. The suits feature a lighter fabric colour and are single-breasted with a “streamlined” cut with red vents at the back, while the shirts are more fitted and women pilots will wear a specific female tie. There is also a trench coat from lightweight wool.

Suits are made from pure Australian merino wool with Australian cotton used for the shirts.

Qantas said new uniform fittings would begin in July, with all 3,000 domestic, international and regional pilots to be sporting the new look by the end of 2016.

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Comments (28)

  • Bill


    Looks very sharp. Not sure about the white topped hat but the logo on it looks good

  • Travel



    We are very forward in promoting woman in an equal status, but when it comes to the simple practicalities of a uniform we have let the past dictate our ways.

    Even for a forward thinking employer like QANTAS the past still has a presence.

    Congratulations to QANTAS and their staff for being a beacon for the rest of Australia.

  • jeff attkinson


    No! The logo looks well-.Flash gordon stuff,Could design it better myself.Looks cheap and would be embarrassing walking through international airports. if i was them and they wont say anything different will they.

  • Tony


    We got rid of white cap tops years ago – not very practical and from another era!!!
    Cap badge is just tacky. Looks like a budget charter outfit not a premier airline. Glad I didn’t have to wear anything like it in my 31 years of service!!!!

  • G4george


    5..4..3..2..1..Thunderbirds are go.

  • Bill


    Looks ridiculous

  • Frequent traveller


    OMG white hat…who on earth thought that was a good idea? Talk about playing dress up for a fancy dress party.

  • Q


    Single button jacket for male pilots, soon to be dirty white caps, tie for lady pilots…the designer’s mirror image . All patheti ultimate low cost , navy boy imagine for a premium airline .
    Such a disgrace.

  • Hugh


    Is Qantas going back to flying flying boats?

  • Bowcher


    White cap…. Really? Are they sailors or pilots?

    As for doing something for female pilots, airlines have been doing this for years now, Virgin introduced a female pilots uniform over 5 years ago, it is not something new, just something new to Qantas

  • Ben


    That cap is terrible. Has Qantas just been taken over by the RAN? Did someone forget to tell the designer pilots haven’t worn white caps since… well since shortly after pilots stopped flying boats!

    It’s all very… Pan Am actually.

  • Meg


    It will be interesting when the FO does a pre-take off walk around the a/c n comes back to the flt deck, takes his cap off in a rush, forgetting he has placed his hand on a tyre, then an oily engine cowling. Woops! Cap is marked n grubby b4 even door closing. Totally impractical, male pilots are not happy with the cheap wings n white cap, they are blewing about it. Compared to BA, LH, AF even AA n DL, its the take of a designer who has no idea of funcionality of a uniform for the airline industry. Embarrassing and disappointing.

  • ken


    Virgin already did this and much better, and without the white cap – could be a ice cream van owner?
    Q again leading from behind, far behind. When will they start leading?
    Maybe when management changes ……..

  • Richard


    I see the designer is French based. Perhaps that is the reason they have more than a passing resemblance to the caps worn by officers in the Marine Nationale. The caps will look very tatty in no time and the badge is very Flash Gordon as Jeff says.

    Better to have left well enough alone- a big backward step.

  • Steve


    Time to chane the cheap new uniform of the cabin crew. The pe5evious Aboriginal prints were smarter and giveand gave the ethinic Australian look. The current one is very poor look.Could Alan Joyce not come up with anything smarter?.

  • Charles


    Absolutely terrible!

  • Robert


    They look like bus conductors

  • Les Piscitelli


    As usual staff are not asked for their opinion on what’s required in a uniform or any other facet of their work activities . Flash Gordon fashion is back.

  • Bob


    Tickets Please

  • capt H David Long (retired)


    Joining Qantas EMPIRE Airways in 1960, I wore the white, ribbed plastic-like, uniform cap for over a decade, through all the B707 years and into the B747. Most serviceable, and an occasional scrub with cleaner kept it brilliant and serviceable. I still have my last issue of white cap on display, along with subsequent blue and then the current dark navy. Although very PanAm-ish of the day, this one proves what goes round comes round.
    Lady Fysh would approve.

  • Vannus


    Can’t please ALL the people all the time!


    Isn’t there a designer in Australia talented enough to design uniforms for the pilots of the AUSTRALIAN Airline?
    Or does it give more ‘pizzazz’ being a Frenchman?

    Don’t like the white caps. Most impractical. Makes them look like RAN officers, too.
    Much preferred the unique original cap logo. Was much more in keeping with Qantas’ history.

    No consultation with the persons’who have to wear them, yet again, Qantas?

  • Peter J Cesnik


    Railway staff has better looking uniforms…and the white tops…besides being impractical it does look tacky…in a way the uniforms remind me on parking attendants or MSS security personnel…

  • Martin


    The good thing about this uniform change is that it will give Qantas a chance to do a “Retro Uniform” in years to come and everyone will think it is really great!

    Anyway, I think it looks OK even if majority of others who have commented don’t like it.

  • Benji


    Have to agree the caps look ridiculous. From a bygone era. They remind me of that TV series the Love Boat from the 1980s….

  • John


    Are they pilots or sailors? And that cap badge design is simply appalling. The overall effect? Just ghastly. Qantas, ask for your money back!

  • Capt. Len K. (Ret.)


    Where did Qantas get these cheap looking cap badges?
    I have seen better as giveaways in packet of cornflakes.
    From the neck down OK; as for the hats, BLEAAAGHH!

  • Peter


    It would appear that the US Navy had some spare uniforms.

  • Stephen


    ATC chiming in here with an unrequested opinion, as we are wont to do. I’ll leave it to the pilots to advise on the practicalities of a white cap after an oily pre-flight check, but I think the nasty comments about a budget airline look are off the mark. I think it’s a very classical look, and whether it’s in keeping with the same period from which Retro Roo I and II hail or not, reflects the charm of a bygone era.

    I’m pleased to see Qantas equip it’s female pilots with a more flattering attire. I would tend to agree that it’s a little disappointing an Australian designer couldn’t have been consulted, but we don’t know the consultation process Qantas undertook.

    Cheap looking hat badge? Minimalist is the word I’d use. And why not? Who needs to distract from the icon, the kangaroo, with gaudy garlands?

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