Flight Lieutenant

Flight Lieutenant

Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt in the RAF; FLTLT in the RAAF and RNZAF, F/L in the former RCAF) is a junior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force [cite web |url=http://www.raf.mod.uk/structure/commissionedranks.cfm |title=Ranks and Badges of the Royal Air Force |accessdate= 2007-12-01 |year=2007 |publisher=Royal Air Force] and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries. It ranks above Flying Officer and immediately below Squadron Leader. The name of the rank is the complete phrase; it is never shortened to "Lieutenant". In informal usage, a flight lieutenant is sometimes referred to as a "flight lieuy".

It has a NATO ranking code of OF-2, and is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy or a Captain in the British Army or 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.


On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service Lieutenants (titled 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 titled as 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.


Although in the early years of the RAF a Flight Lieutenant commanded an aircraft flight, it is rare that a Flight Lieutenant is in command of a flying unit in the modern air force. However, ground flights which are administrative sub-divisions of squadrons are ordinarily commanded by Flight Lieutenants. In the Air Training Corps, a Flight Lieutenant is usually the Officer Commanding (OC) of a squadron.


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.

Other air forces

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".

Notable flight lieutenants

*Jerry Rawlings, Ghanaian politician who twice served as his country's president.
*Sir Patrick Moore, British astronomer.
*Arthur C. Clarke, British author and inventor.
*Christopher Lee, British actor, served in RAF Intelligence during World War II.
*Alex Coomber, British skeleton racer.
*Roald Dahl, British children's writer.

ee also

* RAF officer ranks
* Comparative military ranks
* Lieutenant (for pronunciation)


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