Pilot Officer
Overview
 
Pilot officer is the lowest commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the air forces of many other Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries. It ranks immediately below flying officer
Flying Officer
Flying officer is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence...

. It normally denotes an officer who has elected to join as a non-graduate direct entrant officer, as those with degrees usually only serve a week at the rank after graduation from the RAF College Cranwell. Some newly commissioned officers hold the lower grade of acting pilot officer
Acting Pilot Officer
Acting Pilot Officer is the lowest commissioned grade in the Royal Air Force, being immediately junior to Pilot Officer. Unlike other RAF ranks which officers may hold in an acting capacity, Acting Pilot Officer is maintained as a separate grade. It normally denotes an officer who has recently...

.
It has a NATO ranking code of OF-1 and is equivalent to a second lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 or the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

.
Encyclopedia
Pilot officer is the lowest commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the air forces of many other Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 countries. It ranks immediately below flying officer
Flying Officer
Flying officer is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence...

. It normally denotes an officer who has elected to join as a non-graduate direct entrant officer, as those with degrees usually only serve a week at the rank after graduation from the RAF College Cranwell. Some newly commissioned officers hold the lower grade of acting pilot officer
Acting Pilot Officer
Acting Pilot Officer is the lowest commissioned grade in the Royal Air Force, being immediately junior to Pilot Officer. Unlike other RAF ranks which officers may hold in an acting capacity, Acting Pilot Officer is maintained as a separate grade. It normally denotes an officer who has recently...

.
It has a NATO ranking code of OF-1 and is equivalent to a second lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 or the Royal Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 has no exactly equivalent rank, and a pilot officer is senior to a Royal Navy midshipman
Midshipman
A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer of the lowest rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya...

 and junior to a Royal Navy sub-lieutenant
Sub-Lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant is a military rank. It is normally a junior officer rank.In many navies, a sub-lieutenant is a naval commissioned or subordinate officer, ranking below a lieutenant. In the Royal Navy the rank of sub-lieutenant is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant in the British Army and of...

. In the Australian Armed Forces, the rank of pilot officer is equivalent to acting sub lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy.

The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Women's Auxiliary Air Force
The Women's Auxiliary Air Force , whose members were invariably referred to as Waafs , was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force during World War II, established in 1939. At its peak strength, in 1943, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week.A Women's Royal Air...

 (WAAF) was assistant section officer.

Origins

In the Royal Flying Corps
Royal Flying Corps
The Royal Flying Corps was the over-land air arm of the British military during most of the First World War. During the early part of the war, the RFC's responsibilities were centred on support of the British Army, via artillery co-operation and photographic reconnaissance...

, officers were designated pilot officers at the end of pilot training. As they retained their commissions in their customary ranks (usually second lieutenant or lieutenant), and many of them had been seconded from their ground units, the designation of pilot officer was a position title rather than a rank.

On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, with Royal Flying Corps second lieutenants becoming second lieutenants in the RAF. Consideration was given to renaming second lieutenants as ensigns
Ensign (rank)
Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank itself acquired the name....

. However, when the RAF's own rank structure was introduced on 1 August 1919, RAF second lieutenants were re-titled pilot officers, a rank which has been in continuous use ever since.

Usage

The rank title does not imply that an officer in the rank of pilot officer is a pilot. Some pilot officers are aircrew, whilst many are ground branch officers. A ground branch pilot officer rarely may have command of a flight
Flight (military unit)
A flight is a military unit in an air force, naval air service, or army air corps. It usually comprises three to six aircraft, with their aircrews and ground staff; or, in the case of a non-flying ground flight, no aircraft and a roughly equivalent number of support personnel. In most usages,...

.

RAF usage

The rank is normally held by an officer who has joined as a non-graduate direct entrant to the RAF. Those with degrees usually only serve a week in the rank after graduation from the RAF College Cranwell. All newly commissioned non-graduate officers hold the lower grade of acting pilot officer
Acting Pilot Officer
Acting Pilot Officer is the lowest commissioned grade in the Royal Air Force, being immediately junior to Pilot Officer. Unlike other RAF ranks which officers may hold in an acting capacity, Acting Pilot Officer is maintained as a separate grade. It normally denotes an officer who has recently...

 for one year.

Insignia

The rank insignia
Insignia
Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

 consists of a thin blue band on slightly wider black band. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the casual uniform.

Although no Royal Navy rank has an insignia of a single half width ring, a pilot officer's mess insignia of one thin band of gold running around each cuff is similar to the general naval pattern. As with the mess insignia for other RAF officer ranks, the band of gold does not have the Royal Navy's loop.

Other air forces

The rank of pilot officer is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, including the Bangladesh Air Force
Bangladesh Air Force
The Bangladesh Air Force , is the air arm of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. Bangladesh Air Force currently employs more than 22,000 personnel including 600+ Pilots.-History:...

, Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

, Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

, Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force
The Royal New Zealand Air Force is the air arm of the New Zealand Defence Force...

 and Sri Lanka Air Force. The rank is no longer used by the Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 and all trainee cadets are commissioned into the force as flying officer
Flying Officer
Flying officer is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many countries which have historical British influence...

s.

The Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
The history of the Royal Canadian Air Force begins in 1920, when the air force was created as the Canadian Air Force . In 1924 the CAF was renamed the Royal Canadian Air Force and granted royal sanction by King George V. The RCAF existed as an independent service until 1968...

 used the rank until the three armed services were unified into the Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

 in 1968 and army-type ranks were adopted. A Canadian pilot officer then became a second lieutenant. In official French Canadian usage, a pilot officer's rank title was sous-lieutenant d'aviation. The Royal Malaysian Air Force used "young lieutenant".
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