Flight lieutenant

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This article is about the air force rank. For the film, see Flight Lieutenant (film).
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 junior commissioned air force rank which originated in the Royal Naval Air Service and continues to be used in the Royal Air Force[1] and many other countries, especially in the Commonwealth. It is also sometimes used as the English translation of an equivalent rank in non-English-speaking countries, especially those which have an air force-specific rank structure.

Flight lieutenant ranks above flying officer and below squadron leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "lieutenant".

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
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
Lieutenant
commander
Major or
Commandant
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

Usage in the RAF[edit]

Although in the early years of the RAF a flight lieutenant commanded an aircraft flight, with the increasing combat power of aircraft and therefore squadrons, command and control has shifted up the rank structure (currently, for instance, most squadron commanders in the RAF are Wing Commanders, a reflection on the comparative combat power between the modern air force and its precedent).

The RAF's promotion system is automatic up until Flight Lieutenant, on the Initial Commission of 12 years service. Every officer will attain the rank provided they complete their professional training and do not leave early. For Aircrew, Flight Lieutenant is reached 2.5 years after commissioning, BEng/MEng qualified engineers 2.5 and 1.5 years respectively, and for all ground branch officers, 3.5 years. Aircrew are appointed to an Early Departure Payment Commission upon reaching their Operational Conversion Unit, which is a commission for 20 years or age 40, whichever is later. Promotion to Squadron Leader thereafter is strictly upon merit; officers promoted beyond Flight Lieutenant are appointed to a Career Commission, or service to age 60. Resigning a commission is generally dependent on the needs of the Service, although an officer who has completed their Return of Service (service the RAF requires to justify its expense in originally training the officer) could leave after as little as four years. For aircrew, given the large expense required for training, this Return of Service is generally the length of their initial commission anyway, unless they re-role to a different branch having failed an element of flying training. Most aircrew reach their squadrons as Flight Lieutenants due to the length of training time required (up to four years for fast jet pilots). The majority of squadron line pilots will be flight lieutenants, with some squadron executives or Career Commission aircrew reaching Squadron Leader.

Aside from aircrew, whose work typically does not require active leadership for units of airmen, ground branch officers can expect to operate units which can range in size from a few specialist non-commissioned personnel to 50 or more personnel for engineering or other manpower intensive roles. The role of a Flight Lieutenant generally involves management of a team of specialists Non-Commissioned Officers and airmen, within their specific branch. In the RAF Regiment, a Flight Lieutenant generally has the same role and responsibility as a Captain in the British Army, in charge of a Regiment Flight of 30 men, and could be second-in-command of a Squadron of up to 120 men.

Flight Lieutenant is the most common rank in the RAF; in April 2013, for example, there were 8,230 RAF officers, of whom 3,890 (47.3%) were Flight Lieutenants.[2] In RAF informal usage, a flight lieutenant is sometimes referred to as a "flight lieuy". A Flight Lieutenant's starting salary is £39,236.40 as of 2015.[3]

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.[4]

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

In the Danish Army, a flight lieutenant is called a captain (Army equivalent). The rank of flight lieutenant is an old Army rank for army pilots and is now used for lieutenants (OF-1).

Notable flight lieutenants[edit]

Prince William in his then flight lieutenant's uniform

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ranks and Badges of the RAF". Royal Air Force. 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ "UK Armed Forces Annual Personnel Report" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Rates of Pay" (PDF). raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  4. ^ "Armed Forces, Forms Of Address". Debrett's. 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 58941. p. 123. 6 January 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2009.