Why Officers rather than Ratings?

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by SillyLittleWren, Oct 27, 2012.

Welcome to the Navy Net aka Rum Ration

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial RN website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Hello everyone,

    I have a question to ask people in the know and I'm sorry if I'm asking something that has already been asked before.

    Can someone explain why the RN's criteria for pilot is that the candidate must be an Officer as opposed to say the Army Air Corps where pilots can be NCO's?? Is it a case of "it just is" or is there more of an educational reasoning behind the decision?? (I.e Pilots need degrees and such)

    Any information is greatly appreciated.

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  2. because I'm a mind reader, We only have Officers as pilots and observers, when it suits the FAA..mainly in peace time!!!! When aircraft are thin on the ground,and Officers are a plenty from BRNC. But in times of need the FAA pilots and observers were mainly RNR RNVR Officers and ratings a plenty. Starting there training at HMS ST Vincent, as a Leading Hand , and being promoted to a Petty Officer pilot on completion iirc
  3. This is something peculiar to the RN in my time the Royal Marines (part of the RN) had plenty of Sgt pilots, and very good they were too.
    It may gave something to do with Nuclear weapons, most RN aircraft are able to utilise these and the powers that be will not trust one of these to be deployed by a rating.
    Besides, having rating pilots would spoil the Royal Naval Flying Club:sad:
    Suppose Pontius may have the definitive answer
  4. :toothy8:Thank goodness there was no room for the rating aircrewman, when Sir was to be tasked, on his one way trip!!!! for carrying his Nuke on operation Rhino http://nuclear-weapons.info/images/we177-wasp.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Officers usually have nicer watches. Keeps the salvage divers happy.
  6. wet_blobby

    wet_blobby War Hero Moderator

    Wasn't just Stripeys that could fly in the Corps, Cpls could do it as well. Then it came to pass that flying machines became scarce, funnily enough that coincided with having to be an officer to go flying. As to the original question hang in there Jenny until Pontius gives a reply.
  7. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    I've asked this question before, I think Waspie provided the answer: it is to do with the power of executive command. AAC pilots only fly reconnaisance aircraft, all RN pilots may have to fly armed aircraft and therefore need to be able to make executive decisions wrt opening fire. Hope that helps.
  8. It's the nuclear weapon thing - same reason that the RAF only have pilot Officers (and Pilot Officers).
  9. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    The shift to officer pilots occurred after the war, long before the RN got the Scimitar, the first FAA aircraft that could carry nuclear weapons. Rating pilots were either commissioned (if deemed suitable) or recatted to another rating specialisation, or demobbed. I believe one consideration was rating pilots being out of the loop when matters were being discussed in the wardroom.

    Post war there were two streams of aircrew - General List executive (from 1956 chizz chizz seaman) officers who sub-specialised in aviation but whose opportunities included progression to sea command via First Lieutenant appointments, thus providing a proportion of senior officers with aviation experience, the lack of which caused by the disaster of All Fools' Day 1918 left a legacy of problems to the WW2 RN; and Supplementary List aircrew who could get in without A-levels on a short service commission, with opportunities to transfer to GL if made of the right stuff, known under training as AVCADs. For more on those chaps see John Winton's 'HMS Leviathan'. Additonally some National Service men were trained as aircrew and commissioned RNVR for this, I knew one who flew as a looker in the Korean War.

    There was an element of conscription from GL, certainly for observers who could of course then rapidly volunteer for pilot on a basis that they'd rather kill themselves than have somebody else do it for them (look at the Sea Vixen chop rate). Again I knew one who had recatted Exec from Electrical and then got an invitation he couldn't refuse to be aircrew.

    Also since then aircraft and their roles have become much more complicated with the looker in a Sea King or a Merlin controlling an entire anti-submarine battle; and also, the CO of a ship's flight is also the command's adviser on all matters to do with aviation, quite apart from having to run his little gang of maintainers and be their DO.

    Regarding the RAF in WW2, when my father's cousin qualified as a Navigator in 1942 in Canada, the top one-third of his course were commissioned, the other 2/3 made sergeants.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  10. Thank you all who put me a pedestal as some kind of sage to all things aviation. Unfortunately, I'm no more an expert in these matter than others who have spent their lives around flying machines, so what I say is by no means definitive :frown:

    I had heard the nuclear theory and it made sense to a degree. This has always been an executive action and the '2 keys' policy always involved commissioned ranks. There will always be those who say it's not necessary for officers to make that decision/carry out that task but that's the way it's been laid out by governmental policy and that's what we live(d) by, so suck it up. IF the SHAR had been able to carry such weapons it would have been an interesting situation. How can '2 keys' work with a single pilot :???:

    Oops, hit the 'post' button by mistake. Continuing on.......

    As I say, I've heard the nuclear theory postulated but I think Scouse has hit the nail on the head. In peace time we have the luxury of time. We can afford to accept the longer time periods involved in training an officer to fill the role and (possibly) squeeze a bit more blood out of the stone (get that officer to run a division, OOW duties etc). Peace time and the requirement for fewer pilots is also an opportunity to be more selective in the other qualities you wish your aviators to possess. Perhaps education features more highly that it otherwise would (NO, I'm not saying anyone who is not an officer does not have a good educational pedigree but a higher level is required of an officer than a rating/NCO). There are doubtless other examples but the Cass Beer of Korea is limiting my higher thinking :tongue3:. In time of war we are not given the same luxury of time to train from scratch and need to take the best qualified people we have for the job i.e our senior rates. They are already experienced in things Navy and just need to be taught another skill set; far quicker than waiting for someone to go through BRNC before we can do the same thing at the rush.

    I also think there's the matter of what your force is actually there to do. The RAF and FAA are there specifically to deliver aircraft to the fight, so they should have their best trained personnel to do that job i.e. specialists, who have had time and training expended on them. The Pongoes are a different breed; their specialists need to be the guys at the 'front' doing their Army 'thing' and, to be honest, the flying bit is a bit of a side-show, so perhaps they don't need everyone to hold executive powers; just a smaller number of 'leaders'.

    As the son of a Bootneck NCO aviator I certainly have no axe to grind. My Old Man did a great job as a Cpl/Sgt and I have no qualms over the way Royal (and Army) does his business. In peace time we do have the opportunity to get the best people we can for the job and, inevitably, this leads to the necessity of rewarding those people with better pay and conditions than we might otherwise be able to get away with. Gold stripes and fancy cap badges are part of that 'reward'.

    How about this for a question: Given just about worldwide armed force requires its pilots to be officers, why does the British Army, Royal Marines and US Army not?
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  11. In this case it would have been possible for the second key to be used remotely (telemetry or through satellite communications). The second key effectively being controlled by an occifer (lucky sod)on the ground/mother ship.:toothy8:
  12. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    Don't shoot the messenger! I thought Waspie (if it was him, it was definitely a WAFU) would be in a position to comment with some authority on the subject.
  13. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    'Two keys'? Only the driver in a Scimitar. The weapons job is spread between both aircrew in a Buc but that's not specific to nukes.

    Try standing the argument on its head - what advantages would accrue from having ratings as pilots and/or observers? - remembering that in WW2 rating pilots would generally have been flying as part of a squadron rather than the later situation where two aircrafct on a job would be normal, a single Buc having the carrying capacity of an entire squadron of Sea Furies, and CAPs in FI being apparently two a/c only.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  14. Sorry about screwing up the thread muckers. I'd pressed the wrong button and have been busy writing while you continued the thread; so my posting now makes no sense at all. In mitigation, it's 0120 here and maybe, just maybe, the Cass beer has dulled my senses :drunken:
  15. I believe the USN had aircrew ratings at the beginning of WW II, but that stopped at the beginning of the jet era ?
  16. I can think of no advantages for rating pilots, so why then did the RN allow rating pilots in the first place?
  17. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Desperation I should think, given the chop rate in WW2 naval aircraft (and during training) and losses of aircrew in carrier sinkings, and the vast expansion of the FAA 1939-45. Plus the higher education of some of the HOs conscripted during the war compared to most pre-war regular ratings. But I'm guessing. Time for someone to push this qn to the FAA Museum perhaps.

    It is possible that the Treasury and CS were saying to both the FAA and the RN 'You are only allowed to have so many officers'. That's one I think I've picked up from somewhere which is lurking in the cyber-gashbucket that passes for my brain.
  18. So am I right in thinking that Officers wouldn't/don't have to seek any other authorisation when deploying weapons and Rating pilots would?? (sorry if i sounding dense.) and that the RN can be want for a better word "choosey" in who it wants to fly its aircraft, so they look at that if you're good enough to pass the aptitude test then you could be good enough to pass the AIB???

    This question has been posed to me through my course and all you thoughts and responses are a real help :)
  19. Slightly confused here.

    Have we still got airborne nukes or are they purely the sludgemariners' (strategic) tools?

    Tactical nukes? Have they come back?
  20. tiddlyoggy

    tiddlyoggy War Hero Book Reviewer

    Ssshhh, not allowed to say.

Share This Page