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Flying tips: Why do Pilots dress the same worldwide?

Flying tips: Why do Pilots dress the same worldwide?

OR ask, what do bars on the shoulders imply? ONE of the unique features in the Civil Aviation Industry is the way Pilots dress and how smart they appear while at work performing their duty which attracts many to wish to become one.

The larger point to address here is the attire itself which does vary with airlines and the region. Some airlines prescribe black overcoats, some grey, some blue.

Most of them prescribe white shirts sometimes, even blue. With the help from online sources and authenticated by Captain Kintu Newa, this article seeks to address the issue of pilots’ uniforms and answer questions in the mind of many, such as is it true that all airline pilots must wear similar uniforms?

The answer is, no, they don’t. Because every airline has its own uniforms for their pilots, although they seem to follow a certain “format”, as introduced in the 1930s by Pan American Airways (Pan Am).

Pan Am became a very successful airline, and hoping to emulate Pan Am’s success, other airlines started issuing pilots similar uniforms, and it is now considered an “industry standard”. At that time, Pan Am flew flying boats, and passengers had their pilots in sight practically for the whole flight.

Prior to the 1930s Pilots used to wear some sort of World War I (WWI) style uniform, not what passengers really wanted to see their pilots wear. Pan Am learned that and then issued their pilots uniforms like sea skippers and naval officers.

This was to make their pilots look more “professional”, and thus make passengers more confident and comfortable with the trip. Lots of airlines now, though, allow their pilots to “customize” their uniform, such as wearing leather jackets instead of blazers.

According to cruiselinehistory. com, Pan American Airways began the first transatlantic passenger service in 1939. Pan American World Airways, as it was to be known, commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal United States international air carrier from the late 1920s until its collapse on December 4, 1991.

Founded in 1927 as a scheduled air mail and passenger service operating between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, the airline became a major company credited with many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems.

We’ve all heard “This is your Captain speaking” booming out over tannoy systems (P.A Systems) on airline flights, since in this article we are talking about pilot attire, it is prudent to know what the difference between a pilot and a Captain is?

As they differentiated by their bars on the shoulders as part of their outfits, a pilot is a job description and does not imply any qualification or rank.

So, the point being made here is that the attire varies quite a bit. Let’s get to the point of what does not. The bars or the epaulets or the shoulder boards are standard almost across the globe.

The nomenclature depends on the kind of license the pilot holds and is as follows: Student Pilot License - 1 BAR, Private Pilot License - 2 BARS, Commercial Pilot License - 3 BARS (In most cases this is an airline First Officer (F/O), however a transition F/O or a trainee F/O may wear 2 BARS sometimes) and Airline Transport Pilot License - 4 BARS (In most cases this is an airline commander). A flight engineer or a second officer wears two stripes.

A first officer also called a copilot or second in command, wears three stripes. A captain, or a pilot in command, wears four stripes. ... Pilots also typically wear a winged badge indicating their qualification to fly and their seniority.

A newly qualified airline or private jet pilot is allocated the rank of “First Officer” then later “Senior First Officer” before they take a “Command Course” after which they can become a Captain.

In the military First Officers are called “Co-pilots”. The shoulder boards or epaulets are almost always a black base with gold bars very similar to NAVY epaulets and insignia on the whole.

It is true that modern airline uniforms have been inspired from NAVY uniforms back in the 1930s because Pan Am airways back then operated seaplanes.

Since most of the captains back then essentially operated what they called boat planes, the uniform seamlessly transferred to airline pilots as well.

This also carries over to the overcoat pilots wear which features stripes or bars on the cuffs very similar to a double-breasted reefer worn by naval officers. Normal, Professional pilots.

• The writer, Ally Changwila is a Senior Public Relations Officer at Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA), with the help of online sources and various readings has managed to compile this piece.


Author: Ally Changwila

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