How to preserve flightgear

Message 2299, May 14, 2001
As regards leather preservatives, specifically, I believe Rich had some very salient comments to make on this about a month back (can't recall the specific flightgear post number); you might ask him directly. Apparently, commercial 'conditioning' agents such as Armor-All contain a Formaldehyde-based solution, which is paradoxically not good for either rubber or leather. Rich suggested (if memory serves correctly) using some of the classic car specialty preparations. NO ONE is as religious about using the correct preservatives to condition and maintain leather as the Concours de Elegance guys (classic car buffs); the solutions they use are very expensive, but seem a far better choice than Armor-All or the other common "auto parts" commercial solutions. Rich would have more specifics on this for you, of course.
From my own recollections, I seem to remember reading a comparative study done by a collector of WW I German "stahlhelms", in which the researcher stated clearly that most so-called leather conditioners and preservatives (for head slings) are actually not as good for the specific aim of preserving the leather as one is led to believe. In other words, research this subject VERY carefully before you rush out to buy the next commercial "leather conditioner" you see on the retail store shelf. This search for truly good solutions is probably best done through use of an InterNet intuitive search engine like "Google" which doesn't require Boolian logic or Boolian strings (like many).
Cheers, DocBoink

Message 2624, Jun 1, 2001
Greetings all, A while back we were talking about preserving our gear. Over the past couple of weeks I have (in my capacity as curator at the Maine Air Museum) been talking with a number of professional flight gear conservators about preservation problems.

1. Oxygen masks, and other natural rubber (like in astronaut pressure suits)
- You guessed it, MAJOR problem. Once the rubber deteriorates, there is not much that you can do with it. You can lessen the speed of deterioration by a few fairly simple steps.
A. Keep out of UV light (ie. sunlight or fluorescent light)
B. Seal them in mylar of polyethylene bags. Be sure the humidity is not too high, because if it is, you will have a mould problem. I would also keep them in a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid.
C. protect from air pollution - the above would do this.
D. Display for short periods of time.

2. Leather:
Helmets, suspensions Jackets etc. British Museum Formula leather dressing (Available from University Products). Use the dressing with Wax if you do not have heat to contend with. If the environment is warm use the formula without the wax.

3. Chamois ear pads and helmet linings:
There is nothing. you can put leather dressing on them, but it will turn the light leather dark.

Any restoration that you do should be documented, so that the next custodian of these items will know what is restored. From listening to these guys, I have found out that Flight gear is very similar to paper and rare book preservation, my specialty for the past 25+ years. If you have any questions about preservation, just ask. If I do not have an answer, I'll ask one of the pros. Hope that this helps.
Bones (beginning to sound like Doc Boink)