Aircraftman (AC) or aircraftwoman (ACW) 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".
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 introduced to the RAF in January 1919, replacing the rank prefixes 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. The rank of senior aircraftman (SAC) was introduced on 1 January 1951.
Royal Canadian Air Force
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. An aircraftman in the cadet stage is called aviator (recruit).
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force also uses both aircraftman and aircraftwoman.
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Thee Royal Malaysian Air Force has four aircraftman ranks:
- Leading aircraftman (laskar udara kanan)
- Aircraftman 1st class (laskar udara I)
- Aircraftman 2nd class (laskar udara II)
- Aircraftman recruit (perajurit muda)
Royal New Zealand Air Force
- "RAF Distinguishing Insignia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
- RAF website
- The spellings "aircraftsman" and "aircraftswoman", despite being occasionally seen even in official documents, are incorrect in any air force.
- "erk". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Perkins, Dave. "Royal Navy Branches, Ranks and Ratings, 1918". www.pbenyon.plus.com. Archived from the original on 24 January 2019. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
- 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.
- 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
- "A Return to the Royal Canadian Aor Forec Ranks; a Historical Examination" (PDF). rcaf-arc.forces. 2014. p. 12. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
- "Air Force Ranks - Royal Australian Air Force". www.airforce.gov.au. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
- "RNZAF - RNZAF Ranks". www.airforce.mil.nz. Retrieved 2 August 2017.