This sponsored article was prepared by Insight magazine, the sponsored content division of MHM Publishing, on behalf of AUK Protection.
Ask any pilot what they wish they could change about their flight gear — or what their ideal aviation apparel would look like — and most will provide similar answers.
Comfortability, maneuverability, functional design, ventilation, and flexible fabric in the joints and back are frequently spoken about among colleagues in the industry.
That’s exactly why Swedish helicopter pilots Johan Baumann and Michael Elmeskog created AUK Protection, a proudly Swedish aviation apparel company, back in 2011.
“We wanted to provide helicopter crews with the kinds of flight apparel we wished we had,” said Baumann, who serves as head of customer relations at AUK Protection; Elmeskog is the company’s CEO. “We realized the apparel we would have wanted was not offered on the market — so we thought, maybe there’s something we can do about it.”
While continuing to work as helicopter pilots in Scandinavia, Baumann and Elmeskog started AUK Protection mainly because they wanted to address concerns they shared with their friends and colleagues in the industry.
“We are simply making our thoughts a reality,” Baumann said. “And truthfully, these are thoughts most other pilots have. There’s nothing revolutionary about it. We just want to develop the kind of gear we wish we had earlier in our careers.”
Today, AUK Protection offers a full range of garments for all sectors of the civilian helicopter market.
“Aerial work, HEMS [helicopter emergency medical services] and SAR [search-and-rescue] operators globally perform their missions wearing AUK Protection,” Baumann said. “And their feedback has been great.”
To help ensure AUK Protection garments are practical and effective, the company has completed dozens of in-depth interviews with flight crews who fly in extreme conditions. Those interviews provide a deeper understanding of pilot requirements, and they guide the design process.
“Our four core values are user-centered design, comfort, premium materials and style,” Baumann said. “All our apparel is made with those values in mind.”
Today, the company’s flight suits, crew pants, shell jackets, reversible vests, parkas, shirts and other products are industry favorites.
“We simply listened as helicopter crews described their real problems, needs and desires,” Baumann said. “This is a new breed of personal safety equipment, developed by pilots and for active helicopter crews.”
AUK Protection’s customer-centered approach has helped the company build relationships with several high-profile clients across Europe and North America, including Air Greenland, the rigorous and respected Arctic helicopter operator. Other customers include the Swedish Air Ambulance Organization and the Swedish Maritime Administration, the national SAR provider. Companies in Canada, Iceland and other parts of Europe have also signed on.
“Operators have embraced our products,” Baumann said. “But we’re not doing anything that anyone hadn’t already thought about. We just chose to make it happen.”
AUK Protection apparel integrates many small, but deeply appreciated features that flight crews have welcomed, including strategically-placed pockets, zippers, ventilation and stretch fabric in the joints and back.
“Our flight suits make it comfortable to sit in the cockpit for long stretches of time,” Baumann said. “We try to make equipment you don’t think about, instead of the other way around. The leaders of this company are also the end users of this type of gear. We are seasoned aviation professionals. We understand where they’re coming from.”
Demand for AUK Protection apparel has grown significantly, and the company is now working to scale its operations. Its goal is to grow strategically, using quality European materials and fabrics. The company is proud of its Swedish roots, and noted all its production and manufacturing are completed within the European Union.
“We can’t push this too quickly,” Baumann added. “We are in full control of what’s being designed. We can design stuff one week and go fly it the next, and we want to keep that.”
Ultimately, the company sees deep pilot knowledge as a key differentiator — and a key reason why customers should choose AUK Protection over its competitors.
“They should choose our products because we really listen to their needs,” Baumann said. “We’re constantly collecting feedback and listening to our customers, and that’s what drives us. We’re not the cheapest option, but you certainly get what you pay for. We deliver exceptional value. You’ll see excellent quality from day one, at a reasonable price, and the investment pays off over time.”