How Many Stripes Does A Captain Have?

A captain is the highest ranking officer on an aircraft. He has authority over other officers and crew members.

The number of stripes worn on a captain’s uniform varies from country to country, and also with different airlines.

How Many Stripes Does A Captain Have

We take a look at the consensus of how many stripes a Captain pilot can have.

The Number Of Stripes On A Pilot’s Uniform

The number of stripes on the uniform of a pilot indicates his rank. There are typically six different ranks that a pilot can achieve.

From the lowest rank (cadet) to the highest (captain), these ranks refer to skill and training levels that the pilot has gone through.

Saying this, there is no standard classification for these ranks across the world. Airlines can choose to issue different stripes to differently skilled pilots.

The only thing that most of the ranks have in common is that there is usually a First Officer and a Captain. This is typically reflective of the co-pilot and pilot.

Pilot Ranks

In the United States, the common pilot ranks are as follows.


Cadet is the first step towards becoming a pilot. Cadets must complete a minimum of four years of college education before applying for their licence.

They also go through ground school and flight school. Flight schools can select how many stripes a cadet wears.

Most students, who have a standard pilots licence, wear only 1 stripe. They typically receive 2 stripes when they also add an Instrument Rating to their qualifications.

However, some flight schools also issue their trainees 3 stripes.

Second Officer

Once a cadet passes all the tests required by the FAA, he becomes a second officer.

Second Officers are responsible for flying the plane during takeoff, landing, and emergency situations. They are not allowed to fly solo unless they have been trained to do so.

Second officers are typically given 2 stripes. Not all airlines use Second Officers, as they require both pilot and co-pilot to perform take off and landing.

However, a Second Officer is usually a cruise relief pilot for long haul flights.

First Officer

After completing the training requirements set out by the FAA, a second officer receives his private pilot certificate. This means that he can now fly alone and perform take-offs and landings.

First officers are responsible for flying the airplane during cruising conditions, and during pilot breaks.

Typically, first officers are issued 3 stripes. Some airlines will give them automatically 3 stripes when they join.

Most short haul airlines award only 3 stripes to their First Officers when they have been promoted to Senior First Officer.

Senior First Officer

Senior First Officer

A senior first officer is a first officer with at least 1,500 hours of flight experience. Some airlines have additional requirements, such as an ATPL.

He is responsible for monitoring the performance of the rest of the crew, and ensuring that the safety standards are met.

Some airlines will award their senior first officers 4 stripes. However, most airlines will only issue 3 stripes to this rank.

Senior First Officers are also often referred to as Co-pilots.


Captains are responsible for flying the aircraft during all phases of flight. Captains are also responsible for making sure that the safety standards are being met, and that passengers are crew are safe.

Captains, also known as pilots on an aircraft, are typically awarded 4 stripes.

Captain is the highest rank on an aircraft, unless there is a Training Captain onboard.

Training Captain

The role of a Training Captain is similar to that of a Captain, and he is responsible for overseeing the training of new pilots.

Training captains are typically awarded the same number of stripes as Captains. However, they are more senior and typically get paid more.

Where Is The Rank Of A Pilot Seen On His Uniform?

The rank of a pilot is usually displayed very clearly with stripes around the shoulder area of his uniform.

However, the exact position of the epaulets depend on the type of uniform and the airline.

In general, US airlines always use the shoulder patch to indicate the rank of a pilot.

Why Is It Important To See The Rank Of A Pilot?

It is important to see the rank of a pilot because it shows what level of responsibility the pilot is expected to carry out.

For example, if you are a first officer and your captain asks you to check the fuel levels in the cockpit, you should be able to do so without hesitation.

If the captain asked you to do something else, like checking the weather or doing some preflight checks, then this is something a Senior First Officer needs to be able to do.

The visible rank of a pilot is significant because it clearly states the person who is primarily responsible for the aircraft, and who can do what tasks.

A pilot’s rank also shows how much training and how many flight hours someone had.

For example, a Senior First Officer with 3 stripes must have over 1,500 flight hours, while a Cadet with 1 stripe likely has only a few hours of flying experience.

In addition, making the rank of the pilot so visible on the uniform shows professionalism, and that passengers can trust that the pilot has received enough training to safely control the aircraft.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Female Pilot Called?

Although women have been flying powered planes since 1908, there is no specific name for female pilots. 

In the past, women pilots were typically called aviatrices, but this only indicates an aviation interest which does not reflect the necessary skill and training a female pilot has.


A pilot is responsible for many passengers and crew, and it takes years of training to ensure a pilot can fly safely.

The rank of a pilot displayed on his uniform shows that passengers can trust he has received this training and will be able to steer the aircraft safely to their destination.

Jacob Stern
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