All Wings Report In: Putting Red Leader In The Spotlight
"All wings report in." - Garven Dreis, Red Leader
I don't know about you, but I've never been an Imperial sympathizer. Nothing about their ideology appeals to me. I much prefer liberty, and freedom to being a faceless automaton in plastic armor.
I am a Rebel, and a very specific one at that. I'm not royalty, a smuggler, or a general, and I'm no Jedi (though I do prefer a lightsaber to a blaster). I'm an X-Wing pilot. I have been ever since I saw the Battle of Yavin forty two years ago, and my first squadron commander was Garven "Dave" Dreis - Red Leader.
I've always liked X-Wing pilot gear, and nothing epitomizes that dashing look like their flight helmets. The one piece of equipment that could be personalized were their distinctive Koensayr model, #K-22995 Starfighter Helmets. And, to me the helmet most tied to aerospace combat was Red Leader's.
Now, I've lived most of my life around Airforce aircraft. I served in the USAF, was an AirForce brat before that, and I grew up around jets. Red Leader's helmet has always caught my eye because its primary color is the same, greenish-yellow "zinc chromate" pigment that all military aircraft are born with. Everything from freighter to fighter starts out with a primer coat of yellow zinc chromate to act as a base layer protectant against corrosion for the aluminum structure and skins that comprise any air or space-frame. Eventually those hulls end up wearing whatever color they require for the duty they're assigned to. But, if you pull a panel, or open an equipment bay you'll find that same yellow staring back at you, the color of Red Leader's Starfighter Helmet.
Red Leader's Helmet flash (the proper fighter community term for what designer John Mollo referred to as "graffiti art") is unique too. The red marks on the front of his helmet are stylized representations of the shapes used for fighter weapon system targeting reticles (similar to symbols seen on the Death Star's main targeting array). And, while it lacks the familiar Rebel Starbird, its earcups display the insignia representing "The Alliance to Restore the Republic.”
Costume design is an art unto itself. The best designers consider a character's traits while they also take into account the actor playing the character, story, back story, and even elements of the surrounding set dressing, when designing a new costume. A great costumer is one that tells an unwritten story with clothing, and John Mollo was a master storyteller. My feeling is that he had very firm ideas about what kind of squadron commander "Red Leader" was supposed to be, and that character was ALL pilot. That would account for the elements on his Starfighter helmet that tie into aviation. From its distinctive color to its markings, everything unique about this helmet says "Fighter Pilot". Sure, ultimately Red Leader was bested in combat by Lord Vader, but his flying during “The Battle of Scarif” proved his skill as a leader in the cockpit, and it took a pilot who just happened to be a Dark Lord of the Sith (!) to knock him out of the fight.
Rest in the Force Garven Dreis, Red Leader. We'll keep ’em fighting, and flying!