However, aerobatic pilots tend to think that moving at speeds in excess of 300 Km/h with 60+ liters of highly flammable liquid a few centimetres from them doesn't require any particular protection other than common sense, experience, and a parachute which most don't know how to use properly.
It's clear that impacting the ground at high speed is unsurvivable, and that the chances of actually needing a helmet or fire-retardant flying suit are slim, but guess what: fatalities are a combination of extremely low probabilities combining, so the question is: are you willing to risk your life for comfort?
But, what good are a helmet, gloves, and fire retardant suit in the event of an accident? Let's start with the helmet: the helmet is the single most important piece of safety equipment you need, because it will not only help you in an accident, but it will help you prevent it.
Our head is quite fragile. Give it a severe enough blow, and you are out. And if you are out flying a marginally stable aircraft, possibly even pointing towards the earth at high speed, you are history. But what can hit your head in a cockpit? You name it: unfortunate bird strike, FOD in the cockpit, detachment of the canopy at high speed… and of course a forced landing.
Because, if there's something worse than ending your life in a crash… that is surviving the accident only to die to severe burns shortly after.
The helmet will hopefully prevent you from losing consciousness when you need it the most: right after the crash.
In those few seconds, the airplane may catch fire, in which case, you have to keep your wits and get the heck out of there as fast as you can.
And there's when the fire retardant suit, gloves, and footwear come into play.
Unless you are willing to wear a firefighter heavy suit and look like an astronaut (and probably die from heat and dehydration), you will NOT survive a fire for more than, say, 20-30 seconds. But that's all you need to release the harness and canopy and get away from the plane (hopefully).
So you want protection for those 20-30 seconds, and that means a SFI5 flight suit (2 layers of NOMEX or similar), NOMEX footwear, and NOMEX gloves (skin will turn into glue when in contact with a flame, so you may have serious difficulties when pulling the canopy release handle or the harness buckle.
Ok I'm convinced, now where do I get this gear?
Regarding NOMEX clothing, you just have to visit any racing store, as the FIA certified suits, boots, and gloves are perfect for flying as well.For helmets, you can choose between small skydiving models that provide limited impact protection, to military-grade material that can go up to the thousands of Euros. In any case, any helmet you wear is better than nothing.
So remember the ATGATT acronym next time you go up and make your flying a little bit safer.