• Pilot stripes: Which are they?

    Let’s talk about the pilots’ uniform

The shiny gold stripes that decorate the jackets of pilots and co-pilots certainly capture our attention, don’t they? These are also called rank insignia and their purpose goes beyond simple aesthetics, as they represent the wearer’s experience and responsibility.

In our post today, we will explore the meaning of these pilot stripes, the reason for their use, the different colours they can have and other fascinating related facts. Sounds intriguing? Keep on reading!

The pilot’s uniform: what is its origin?

As we have discussed in previous articles, the beginnings of commercial aviation have strong links with military aviation.

In fact, the pilot’s uniform has its origins in naval traditions and, as the first commercial pilots were often former military pilots, they frequently wore military uniforms.

It was not until the 1930s that Pan Am, one of the pioneering commercial airlines, decided that its pilots should wear uniforms to project confidence and professionalism. They opted for uniforms to resemble those of naval officers, as an emblem of authority and discipline.

Naturally, following the lead set by Pan Am, other airlines adopted uniforms for their crews, becoming a widespread phenomenon in the 1950s.

These uniforms have undergone changes over time, but have preserved fundamental elements, such as the military-style jacket, the visored cap and, of course, the stripes on the shoulders.

The stripes are placed on the epaulettes

The epaulette is a component of the pilot’s uniform, as well as other military and paramilitary uniforms, where stripes are placed.

It is a band of cloth, usually located at the top of the sleeves or on the jackets’ shoulders or shirts. Rank insignia or stripes are attached to the epaulettes so that anyone observing the pilot can immediately identify their rank and experience.

What do the pilot’s stripes mean?

We’re sure you’ve already seen videos of pilot graduations and rank insignia ceremonies at our academy, haven’t you? Then follow our social media, because you’re missing out on the highlights!

At One Air, every time a student passes a specific level in their training to become an airline pilot, they are awarded a new rank badge on their epaulette. What does each of these represent? Let’s find out!

One stripe

The first rank insignia is received at the start of the course. If the student opts for the modular ATPL route, they will be awarded their first rating badge at the start of the PPL course. However, if they choose to go the integrated course route, the insignia will be awarded at the start of the course itself.

Two stripes

In the modular mode, the second rank rating is awarded upon obtaining the Private Pilot Licence or PPL. On the other hand, in the integrated route, it is achieved after the first solo flight, also known as the pilot’s take-off.

Three stripes

Regardless of whether the student follows the integrated or modular route, the third rank award is granted once the theoretical phase of the ATPL is passed.

Four stripes

The fourth and final stripe, the most coveted, is awarded when the Commercial Pilot Licence, CPL, is obtained.

Commercial pilot ranks in Spain

It should be noted that there is no legislation regulating the uniformity of commercial pilots, so it is entirely up to the choice of each company.

Even so, there is a fair amount of homogeneity in the number of stripes and the general outline can be summarised as follows:

  • Two stripes: Second Officer
  • Three stripes: First Officer or Co-Pilot
  • Four stripes: Commander or Captain
  • Four stripes + star: Commanding Officer or Instructor Commander

Gold stripes or silver stripes?

Another aspect to consider is the colour of stripes. Yes, although we are used to seeing them in gold, they can also be silver.

Normally, silver badges are used in general aviation, while gold badges are reserved for commercial aviation.

However, airlines such as Wizz Air or Norwegian use silver rank insignia. As mentioned above, there is no specific regulation in this regard.

Now you know what pilot stripes are

You can now confidently state that you understand what pilot rank insignia represent, what their number and colour mean, and the information they communicate about the wearer’s training, rank and experience.

So the next time you board a plane, you can interpret these visual codes and gain a better understanding of who is responsible for getting you to your destination.

We hope you’ve found this article fascinating, and if you’d like to find out more intriguing details about the world of aviation, feel free to visit our blog, where we explain everything from how magnets work to the route your bags take through the airport.

You’ll love it!

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