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Navies Armies Air forces
Commissioned and Non-commissioned 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 or
Brigadier general
Air commodore
Captain Colonel Group captain
Commander Lieutenant colonel Wing commander
Major or
Squadron leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant Lieutenant or
First lieutenant
Flying officer
Ensign Second lieutenant Pilot officer
Midshipman Officer cadet Flight cadet
Enlisted grades
Warrant officer or
Chief petty officer
Warrant officer or
Sergeant major
Warrant officer
Petty officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

Aircraftman (AC) or aircraftwoman (ACW)[1][2][3] is the lowest rank in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the air forces of several other Commonwealth countries.

Aircraftman ranks below leading aircraftman and has a NATO rank code of OR-1. It is now a training rank only and no airmen in productive service hold this rank. Aircraftmen do not wear any rank insignia.


The rank was introduced on the formation of the RAF in 1918, replacing the Royal Flying Corps rank of air mechanic 2nd class. There were two grades: Aircraftman 1st class (AC1) and aircraftman 2nd class (AC2; also colloquially known as an "AC plonk").[citation needed]

Royal Air Force[edit]

In RAF slang, aircraftmen are sometimes called "erks".

Royal Canadian Air Force[edit]

In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the rank is known as "aviator". This was changed from private in spring 2015 when the RCAF changed the colour of its rank insignia from gold to pearl grey. It is the lowest rank in the RCAF. Prior to 1968 the rank of aircraftman was used in the RCAF as in other Commonwealth air forces.

Royal Australian Air Force[edit]

The Royal Australian Air Force also uses both aircraftman and aircraftwoman.

Royal New Zealand Air Force[edit]

In the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the rank is known as "aircraftman", regardless of the person's sex, in line with "seaman" in the Royal New Zealand Navy.


  1. ^ RAF Distinguishing Insignia
  2. ^ RAF website
  3. ^ The spellings "aircraftsman" and "aircraftswoman", despite being occasionally seen even in official documents, are incorrect in any air force.

See also[edit]