Flight lieutenant

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A flight lieutenant's sleeve/shoulder insignia

Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt in the RAF and IAF; FLTLT in the RAAF and RNZAF; formerly sometimes F/L in all services) is a fairly high commissioned rank which originated in the Royal Naval Air Service and continues to be used in the Royal Air Force.[1] The rank is also used by the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence, including many Commonwealth countries, and it is sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in countries which have a non-English air force-specific rank structure. It ranks above flying officer and immediately below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant". In RAF informal usage, a flight lieutenant is sometimes referred to as a "flight lieuy".

It has a NATO ranking code of OF-2, and is equivalent to a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and a captain in the British Army and the Royal Marines.

The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) (until 1980) was flight officer.

Origins[edit]

The rank insignia of a Royal Naval Air Service flight lieutenant

On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service lieutenants (entitled flight lieutenants and flight commanders) and Royal Flying Corps captains becoming captains in the RAF. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the current rank of flight lieutenant would have been "air lieutenant". Although the Admiralty objected to this simple modification of their rank titles, it was agreed that the RAF might base many of its officer rank titles on navy officer ranks with differing pre-modifying terms. It was also suggested that RAF captains might be entitled flight-leaders. However, the rank title flight lieutenant was chosen as flights were typically commanded by RAF captains and the term flight lieutenant had been used in the Royal Naval Air Service. The rank of flight lieutenant has been used continuously since 1 August 1919.

Navies Armies Air forces
Officers
Admiral of
the fleet
Marshal or
Field marshal
Marshal of
the air force
Admiral General Air chief marshal
Vice admiral Lieutenant general Air marshal
Rear admiral Major general Air vice-marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Lieutenant
commander
Major or
Commandant
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant Flying officer
Ensign Second
lieutenant
Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Officer cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant officer Sergeant major
Warrant officer
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

Usage[edit]

Although in the early years of the RAF a flight lieutenant commanded an aircraft flight, it is rare that a flight lieutenant is in command of a flying unit in the modern air force. Instead, aircrew flight lieutenants are typically experienced pilots (or weapons system officers) without command of other personnel. However, ground flights which are administrative sub-divisions of squadrons are ordinarily commanded by flight lieutenants and these can range in size from a few specialist non-commissioned personnel to 50 or more personnel for engineering or other manpower intensive roles. In the Air Training Corps, a flight lieutenant is usually the officer commanding of a squadron.[citation needed] Retired flight lieutenants are the first rank that may continue to use their rank after they have left active service.[2]

Insignia[edit]

The rank insignia consists of two narrow blue bands on slightly wider black bands. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flight suit or the casual uniform. The rank insignia on the mess uniform is similar to the naval pattern, being two band of gold running around each cuff but without the Royal Navy's loop. Unlike senior RAF officers, flight lieutenants are not entitled to fly a command flag under any circumstances.

Other air forces[edit]

The rank of flight lieutenant is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Indian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force. It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman, Royal Thai Air Force and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

The Royal Canadian Air Force used the rank until 1968, when the three armed services were unified and army-type ranks were adopted; flight lieutenants became captains. In official French Canadian usage, a flight lieutenant's rank title was capitaine d'aviation.

Up until the late 1970s, the Royal Malaysian Air Force used the rank. Thereafter the rank of captain was used instead.

Notable flight lieutenants[edit]

Prince William in his flight lieutenant's uniform

See also[edit]

References[edit]