What is the significance to the number of stripes on pilots’ uniforms ?
Question asked by Jane ?
Airline pilots usually have insignia and stripes on their uniforms. The insignia will be in the shape of wings above the left breast pocket. The wings signify that the pilot is a fully qualified pilot, not a student pilot. The first pilot in command will have some insignia on the visor of his/her hat. Stripes are usually on pilot’s tunic sleeves and on epaulettes on shirt shoulders.
The number of stripes on a pilot’s uniform indicate the level of command. On an airplane there must always be someone in command, but it can only be one pilot at a time. The pilot with four stripes is the first pilot in command. He is usually referred to as the Captain. The pilot with three stripes is second in command. He is usually referred to as the First Officer. The First Officer would take command of the airplane if something happens to the Captain and he /she could no longer perform his / her duties.
On very long flights, flights over 9 hours, there will be a third or forth pilot as part of the crew. They work as relief pilots. Their function is to take place of the other pilots, when they take a break to rest during these long flights. Although the relief pilots also wear three stripes on their uniform, they would be third and forth in command.
On some older airplanes, which do not have the automation of newer modern airplanes there is another crew member called Flight Engineer. His job is to look after airplane systems (air conditioning, heating, hydraulics, pneumatics, fuel, electric generators etc.). The flight engineer would have two stripes on his /her uniform.
A bit more about Captain Dan:
Captain Dan Baz enrolled in Flight School at the age of 16.
He has completed studies in Aircraft Engineering and Master of Business Administration. He has been at the controls of many different types of aircraft, from single engine Cessnas to large intercontinental jets on global routes.
Over the last four decades he has flown thousands of hours up in the blue sky.
Have a question for the Captain ? Send it to Captain Dan Baz firstname.lastname@example.org Every week a question from the readers will be selected and answer posted in this column.