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 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. 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". With effect from 1 April 1964, the gradings of AC1 and AC2 were abolished, with "aircraftman" becoming the entry rank.
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. In August 2020, the rank was changed to aviator.
^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. ISBN0-415-06568-2.
^Jefford, C.G. (2010). Observers and Navigators: And Other Non-Pilot Aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RAF. London: Grub Street. p. 285. ISBN978-1-909808-02-7. Air Ministry Order A.80/1963 of 6 March 1963 replaced the AC1 and AC2 with just 'Aircraftman' with effect from 1 April 1964
^"BAF RANKS". Bangladesh Air Force Website. BAF Communication Unit. 2020. Retrieved 2020.