Air Recruit[1][2] is the lowest rank in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the air forces of several other Commonwealth countries. In RAF slang, aircraftmen are sometimes called "erks".[3]

Aircraftman ranks below leading aircraftman and has a NATO rank code of OR-1. It is now a training rank only and no airmen in productive service hold this rank. Aircraftmen do not wear any rank insignia. The rank was renamed air recruit (AR) in the Royal Air Force in July 2022.[4]


The rank was introduced to the RAF in January 1919, replacing the ranks of "air mechanic", "private" and "clerk" that had been introduced under Air Memorandum No. 1 in March 1918. There were three grades: leading aircraftman (LAC), aircraftman 1st class (AC1) and aircraftman 2nd class. A similar grading existed for junior ratings in the Royal Navy.[5] The rank of senior aircraftman (SAC) was introduced on 1 January 1951.

The lowest grade was an AC2; also colloquially known as an "AC plonk".[6] With effect from 1 April 1964, the gradings of AC1 and AC2 were abolished, with "aircraftman" becoming the entry rank.[7]


The Royal Australian Air Force also uses both aircraftman and aircraftwoman.[8]


The rank is used in the Bangladesh Air Force.[9]


In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the rank is also known by the French term of aviateur. This was changed from private in spring 2015 when the RCAF changed the colour of its rank insignia from gold to pearl grey. It is the lowest rank in the RCAF. Prior to 1968 the rank of aircraftman was used in the RCAF as in other Commonwealth air forces.[10] In August 2020, the rank was changed to aviator.[citation needed]


The Royal Malaysian Air Force has four aircraftman ranks:

New Zealand

In the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the rank is known as "aircraftman", regardless of the person's sex, in line with "seaman" in the Royal New Zealand Navy.[11]

In 2023 the RNZAF adopted the title of ‘aviator(s)’ rather than airman when describing Air Force personnel.


The rank is used in the Air Force of Zimbabwe.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "RAF Distinguishing Insignia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  2. ^ The spellings "aircraftsman" and "aircraftswoman", despite being occasionally seen even in official documents, are incorrect in any air force.
  3. ^ "erk". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  4. ^ "Junior Ranks Revolution". RAF News. No. 1540. 15 July 2022.
  5. ^ Perkins, Dave. "Royal Navy Branches, Ranks and Ratings, 1918". Archived from the original on 24 January 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  6. ^ Partridge, Eric (2000). A dictionary of slang and unconventional English : colloquialisms and catch phrases, fossilised jokes and puns, general nicknames, vulgarisms and such Americanisms as have been naturalised (8 ed.). London: Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 0-415-06568-2.
  7. ^ Jefford, C.G. (2010). Observers and Navigators: And Other Non-Pilot Aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RAF. London: Grub Street. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-909808-02-7. Air Ministry Order A.80/1963 of 6 March 1963 replaced the AC1 and AC2 with just 'Aircraftman' with effect from 1 April 1964
  8. ^ "Air Force Ranks – Royal Australian Air Force". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  9. ^ "BAF RANKS". Bangladesh Air Force Website. BAF Communication Unit. 2020. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  10. ^ "A Return to the Royal Canadian Aor Forec Ranks; a Historical Examination" (PDF). rcaf-arc.forces. 2014. p. 12. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  11. ^ "RNZAF – RNZAF Ranks". Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  12. ^ "RANKS AND BADGES IN THE AFZ". Air Force of Zimbabwe Website. Air Force of Zimbabwe. 2020. Archived from the original on 9 June 2022. Retrieved 13 December 2020.