Last updated

The aircrew of a Jetstar Airways Boeing 787 787 Dreamliner cabin crew and pilots (10167536115).jpg
The aircrew of a Jetstar Airways Boeing 787

Aircrew, also called flight crew, are personnel who operate an aircraft while in flight. The composition of a flight's crew depends on the type of aircraft, plus the flight's duration and purpose.


Commercial aviation

Flight deck positions

In commercial aviation, the aircrew are called flight crew. Some flight crew position names are derived from nautical terms and indicate a rank or command structure similar to that on ocean-going vessels, allowing for quick executive decision making during normal operations or emergency situations. Historical flightdeck positions include:

Bell 212 aircrew from Alpine Helicopters scramble on a medical evacuation mission. Bell212Pilot0002.png
Bell 212 aircrew from Alpine Helicopters scramble on a medical evacuation mission.

Cabin positions

Aircraft cabin crew members can consist of:


USAF, RAF and RAAF aircrew and maintenance personnel with their C-17s RAF RAAF USAF C-17s 2007.jpg
USAF, RAF and RAAF aircrew and maintenance personnel with their C-17s

From the start of military aviation, additional crew members have flown on military aircraft. Over time these duties have expanded:

See also

Related Research Articles

Boeing OC-135B Open Skies US Air Force observation aircraft

The OC-135B Open Skies United States Air Force observation aircraft supports the Treaty on Open Skies. The aircraft, a modified WC-135B, flies unarmed observation flights over participating parties of the treaty. Three OC-135B aircraft were modified by the Aeronautical Systems Center's 4950th Test Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The first operationally-capable OC-135B was assigned to the 24th Reconnaissance Squadron at Offutt AFB in October 1993. It is now fitted with a basic set of navigational and sensor equipment, and was placed in inviolate storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona in 1997. Two fully operational OC-135B aircraft were delivered in 1996 with the full complement of treaty-allowed sensors, which includes an infrared line scanner, synthetic aperture radar and video scanning sensors.

Aircraft pilot Person controlling an aircraft in flight

An aircraft pilot or aviator is a person who controls the flight of an aircraft by operating its directional flight controls. Some other aircrew members, such as navigators or flight engineers, are also considered aviators, because they are involved in operating the aircraft's navigation and engine systems. Other aircrew members, such as drone operators, flight attendants, mechanics and ground crew, are not classified as aviators.

Air navigation Method used in air traffic control

The basic principles of air navigation are identical to general navigation, which includes the process of planning, recording, and controlling the movement of a craft from one place to another.

A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the ship's captain or aircraft commander of estimated timing to destinations while en route, and ensuring hazards are avoided. The navigator is in charge of maintaining the aircraft or ship's nautical charts, nautical publications, and navigational equipment, and they generally have responsibility for meteorological equipment and communications. With the advent of GPS, the effort required to accurately determine one's position has decreased by orders of magnitude, so the entire field has experienced a revolutionary transition since the 1990s with traditional navigation tasks being used less frequently.

An aviator badge is an insignia used in most of the world's militaries to designate those who have received training and qualification in military aviation. Also known as a Pilot's Badge, or Pilot Wings, the Aviator Badge was first conceived to recognize the training that military aviators receive, as well as provide a means to outwardly differentiate between military pilots and the “foot soldiers” of the regular ground forces.

The Flight Meteorologist insignia is a military badge decoration of the United States Navy which is issued to officers of the Restricted Line who are commissioned as weather and meteorology specialists. To be issued the insignia, an officer must also have completed flight training to qualify as a Naval Aircrew Member. The insignia itself is very similar to the Naval Aircrew Badge.

The Observer Badge is a military badge of the United States armed forces dating from the First World War. The badge was issued to co-pilots, navigators, and flight support personnel who had received a variation in the training required for the standard Pilot's Badge. The Observer Badge survived through the Second World War and into the 1950s, at which time the concept of an Observer Badge was phased out in favor of the modern Aircrew Badge and Navigator-Observer Badges. In addition to wings for Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers, the United States Navy still maintains an "Observer Badge" which is issued to flight-qualified mission specialists, such as a select number of meteorologists and intelligence officers in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Air Force awards its USAF Observer Badge, which is identical to the USAF Navigator Badge, to Air Force officers who have qualified as NASA Space Shuttle Mission Specialists, have flown an actual mission aboard the shuttle and/or the International Space Station and who are otherwise not previously aeronautically rated as an Air Force pilot or navigator.

A Flight Officer Badge is a decoration used by some of the world's air forces, to include naval aviation of the world's navies, marine forces and coast guards, to denote those who have received training as co-pilots, navigators, observers, or other aircraft officer flight crew personnel. The primary difference between a flight officer and a pilot is that the pilot is responsible for the actual flying and control the aircraft, while the flight officer assists with such duties as navigation and weapons and/or sensor systems operation.

A naval flight officer (NFO) is a commissioned officer in the United States Navy or United States Marine Corps who specializes in airborne weapons and sensor systems. NFOs are not pilots, but they may perform many "co-pilot" functions, depending on the type of aircraft. Until 1966, their duties were performed by both commissioned officer and senior enlisted naval aviation observers (NAO).

The title flight officer was a military rank used by the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, and also an air force rank in several Commonwealth nations, where it was used for female officers and was equivalent to the rank of flight lieutenant. The term flight officer is sometimes used today to describe job title positions as aircrew members.

Loadmaster Aircrew member responsible for managing cargo during loading and in-flight.

A loadmaster is an aircrew member on civilian aircraft or military transport aircraft tasked with the safe loading, transport and unloading of aerial cargoes. Loadmasters serve in the militaries and civilian airlines of many nations.

Bombardier (aircrew)

A bombardier or bomb aimer is the crew member of a bomber aircraft responsible for the targeting of aerial bombs. "Bomb aimer" was the preferred term in the military forces of the Commonwealth, while "bombardier" was the equivalent position in the United States Armed Forces.

Aircrew brevet Aircrew badge in RAF, British Army and other commonwealth nations

An aircrew flying badge is the badge worn on the left breast, above any medal ribbons, by qualified aircrew in the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, British Army, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, South African Air Force and Sri Lanka Air Force. An example of a real Pilot Brevet is as opposite:

The Aircrew Badge, commonly known as Wings, is a qualification badge of the United States military that is awarded by all five branches of armed services to personnel who serve as aircrew members on board military aircraft. The badge is intended to recognize the training and qualifications required by aircrew of military aircraft. In order to qualify as an aircrew member and receive the Aircrew Badge, such personnel typically undergo advanced training in aircraft in-flight support roles.

Weapon systems officer

A Weapon Systems Officer is an air flight officer directly involved in all air operations and weapon systems of a military aircraft.


Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Training Squadron 253 was based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and responsible for providing the Fleet Marine Force active-duty and reserve KC-130 squadrons with qualified replacement pilots and enlisted aircrew. Known as the "Titans", VMGRT-253 was a subordinate unit of Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Varig Flight 820 1973 plane crash in France

Varig Flight 820 was a flight of the Brazilian airline Varig that departed from Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 11, 1973, for Orly Airport, in Paris, France. The plane, a Boeing 707 registration PP-VJZ, made an emergency landing on onion fields about four kilometers from Orly Airport, due to smoke in the cabin from a fire in a lavatory. The fire caused 123 deaths; there were only 11 survivors.

Air observer

An air observer or aerial observer is an aircrew member whose duties are predominantly reconnaissance. The term originated in the First World War in the British Royal Flying Corps, and was maintained by its successor, the Royal Air Force. An air observer's brevet was a single wing with an O at the root. Although today sometimes a manned aircraft is still utilised for aerial observation, industry and the military use both satellites and remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) for this function.

RAF Bomber Command aircrew of World War II

The aircrews of RAF Bomber Command during World War II operated a fleet of bomber aircraft carried strategic bombing operations from September 1939 to May 1945, on behalf of the Allied powers. The crews were men from the United Kingdom, other Commonwealth countries, and occupied Europe, especially Poland, France, Czechoslovakia and Norway, as well as other foreign volunteers. While the majority of Bomber Command personnel were members of the RAF, many belonged to other air forces – especially the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). Under Article XV of the 1939 Air Training Agreement, squadrons belonging officially to the RCAF, RAAF, and RNZAF were formed, equipped and financed by the RAF, for service in Europe. While it was intended that RCAF, RAAF, and RNZAF personnel would serve only with their respective "Article XV squadrons", in practice many were posted to units of the RAF or other air forces. Likewise many RAF personnel served in Article XV squadrons.

Airborne Sensor Operator

An airborne sensor operator is the functional profession of gathering information from an airborne platform and/or oversee mission management systems for academic, commercial, public safety or military remote sensing purposes. The airborne sensor operator is considered a principal flight crew or aircrew member.



  1. UK Civil Aviation Authority CAP804
  2. 1 2 3 Smith, Patrick. Patrick Smith's Ask The Pilot: When a Pilot Dies in Flight, website, 2013, which in turn cites:
    • Smith, Patrick. Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections, Sourcebooks, 2013, ISBN   1402280912, ISBN   978-1402280917.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Lowery, John. Pan American Airways Conquers Global Travel, in Flying the World in Clipper Ships. Retrieved from
  4. "Cathay Pacific - Cadet Pilots". Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  5. Stringman, D.C. (Flt. Lt.). The History of the Air Engineer: Training in the Royal Air Force, U.K.: RAF Finningley, 1984, pp. 39–43.
  6. Cox, John. Ask the Captain: What does the flight engineer do?, USA Today , March 23, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  7. Eldridge, Andrea. Confessions of a Flight Engineer: Flashlights, timers, and breath mints required, Air & Space Smithsonian magazine , November 2011.
  8. Military Factory website, 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2016
  9. Law Officer Archived 2016-02-16 at the Wayback Machine , October 30, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2016
  10. Grierson, Mike. Aviation History—Demise of the Flight Navigator, website, October 14, 2008. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  11. "Technology Timeline: The First Air-to-ground & Ground-to-air Communication". AT&T Labs. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
  12. Ennis, E.E. Wireless Telegraphy from an Aeroplane, Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas, April 1, 1911, pp. 279–280
  13. 1 2 Harris 2001, p. 4.