"Pilots, Man Your Planes!"   
                                         WWII U.S. Naval Aviation Collector's Guide                                                                              
AN-6530 Goggles

The AN-6530 goggles were manufactured by the Charles Fischer Spring Co. and American Optical under both Army Air Forces and Navy contracts starting in 1943. Three features are proprietary to each manufacturer and provide us with visual clues, when viewing vintage photos, that can help us determine the maker. Top vents, bottom vents and the engraved designation on the nose hinge. C.F.S. held the patent to the so-called "streamlined" vent style, therefore A.O. used a simple "tube" vent on their contracts. This feature has nothing to do with "early" or "late" production or ease of manufacture as many authors, sellers and collectors have been conditioned to think over the years*. 

The goggles can typically be found in their issue cardboard boxes, complete with lenses and strap. The C.F.S. box is large enough for the goggle to lay flat or stand vertically and allows room for extra lenses and straps as well. A.O. boxes are rectangular and flat for their Navy contracts, but shorter and cube-like for their AAF contracts. You can often tell the AAF contract goggles as they may show a permanent crease-mark in the nose area of the cushion from their time spent folded inside that smaller box.

Goggle straps were made of 1" wide gray, black or white elastic and were specified to be 20" in length. All of the unissued Navy contract goggles we have seen in their original boxes, were furnished with a gray strap. Vintage photos show all three colors were used by Navy fliers, however. Early straps had dark, or "blued", hardware. Later straps had various silver colored hardware finishes. Something to consider is a snippet of information found in the USAAF class 13 catalog from September of 1943, that states to the effect that "Band Assembly, goggle head (for all goggles)....will always be manufactured locally by each Depot, Sub-depot and Stations, as required, without submitting requisitions other than for necessary raw stock". We can't say that this was also done by the Navy, and of course these would be replacement straps, not those found with the goggles from the factory, but it could account for the many strap variations we see today as collectors.

Issue optical glass lenses were available in clear, green and amber color. The very dark "Sky Lookout" lenses were probably originally intended for shipboard observers, but were used by aviators as well. During wartime, there was a defensive "sky lookout" (as well as surface) watch maintained aboard Navy ships at all times when at sea.

As for the frames being bight or dull, we have observed many wartime-vintage  AN-6530s over the years and all have appeared to have a "dull" finish. Some earlier Navy Mk-II and A.A.C. B-7 frames appear to be chromed or polished and have a true "bright" finish. On early C.F.S. goggles, the streamlined top vents are riveted (at each end) to the frame, and are identical to those used on their previous MK-II pilot goggles which were manufactured exclusively for the U.S. Navy. The vent opening is "half-pear" shaped. Later production examples eliminate the rivets with the vent being brazed to the frame and the vent opening is "half-circle" shaped.

The cushions are still a bit of a mystery. The separate ("split-pad") cushions, which are a soft gray rubber, have no chamois backing, and appear to be carried over from prior Air Corps B-7 contracts. We reach this conclusion due to the molded part number, in raised relief, along the top front edge found on one of the two known styles. The second style had no molded part numbers, is a slightly different shape and the retainer band is sewn inside (not outside) the pad's eye-opening. The more common one-piece sponge-rubber cushions, with a chamois backing, come in various shades of gray and tan. No clear distinction is apparent as to goggle manufacturer or using service based on the color of the cushion from what we have observed.

At some point, an "improved" one-piece cushion became available, which is molded from a more-dense rubber with a pronounced three dimensional contour at the nose. These appear in tan, dark gray and chocolate-brown colors. Surviving examples of these are a bit harder to find. The underlying rubber itself appears to be light gray, with an added surface color-coating. These cushions have been observed on goggles by both manufacturers and can be discerned in vintage photos by their distinct nose contour. Though harder to find, the good news is that these cushions do not appear to suffer from the same sensitivity to heat and light that has deteriorated and destroyed so many of the sponge-rubber AN-6530 cushions after 70 years of exposure.

All AN-6530 one-piece cushions have three vent slots at the top and bottom of each eye opening (which align with corresponding vents in the retainer band) and are interchangeable with any AN-6530 frame. The two upper inboard vents align with the longer C.F.S. style frame vent and the single outboard openings align with the  A.O. tube frame vent. The similar cushion for the C.F.S. MK-II goggle has only two of the upper vent openings per side, not three.

* If one examines the A.A.C. B-7 goggle, dating back to it's earliest production in 1933, you will see that it too was made by these same two manufacturers and this goggle displays the same proprietary vent distinction found on the 1943 vintage AN-6530. This alone denies any logical basis for the position taken by the "early" versus "late" vent theorists and the issue should be put to rest once and for all in our opinion.