Non-commissioned aircrew service

Terms of engagement 

The T&COS for Non-Commissioned Aircrew (NCA) are detailed in AP 3392 Vol 2 Chapter 8. There have been several changes to the terms of service over the years and much will depend on when the individual joined.

Pre Oct 89, NCA terms included a shorter, fixed gratuity-earning engagement of 8 years, time promotion to FS and MACr and re-engagement to 22 years, age 47 (LOS 30) and age 55. Individuals choosing to stay on these terms retained reserved rights to enhanced pay in lieu of time promotion.

On 1 Oct 89, new terms were introduced. This meant that those joining the non-commissioned cadre as aircrew joined the Service on a fixed engagement of 12 years regular service followed by 6 years in the RAF Reserve. Merit promotion to FS was introduced and automatic re-engagement to age 55 was granted on promotion to FS.

On 1 Apr 03, the NCA professional aviator spine was introduced along with new automatic re-engagement rights on promotion and new eligibility requirements for primary and secondary re-engagement by selection. At this stage, the Age 47/LOS 30 engagement was removed from the cadre.

Finally, on 6 Apr 05, a new type of primary re-engagement was introduced for all new entrants joining the RAF NCA cadre after 5 Apr 05. The LOS 22 year engagement was replaced by a 40/18 point (service to age 40 or completion of 18 years service, whichever is the later).


Direct entrants join the NCA cadre in the rank of AC and have the status of aircrew cadet. Ex-ground trades personnel up to FS retain their existing rank (ex Chf Techs are subject to an assessment board to determine their rank).

Direct entry NCA are promoted to acting sgt paid on the award of the flying badge. Cpls on the promotion selection list in their former trade will be advanced to substantive sgt on completion of the initial training course.

Substantive sgt rank is awarded upon the following: 18 months in acting sgt rank, plus an acceptable operational category plus a CO’s positive recommendation for promotion.

NCA will be considered for merit promotion upon completion of 5 years in the rank of substantive sgt (for promotion to FS) and 5 years in the rank of FS (for promotion to MACr.


NCA may be offered re-engagement either upon promotion or by selection by the NCA re-engagement board.

NCA enlisted prior to 6 Apr 05 who are selected for primary re-engagement will be offered service to 22 years.
NCA enlisted after 6 Apr 05 will be offered service to the 40/18 point.

NCA selected for secondary re-engagement will be offered service to age 55.

As a condition of acceptance of re-engagement, all NCA who have not opted to transfer to the most current terms of service for which they are eligible, will be required to do so.


On completion of 8 years reckonable service or 6 years from the end of training, NCA have the right to apply to be transferred to the Reserve providing they give at least 18 months formal notice.

NCA not promoted to FS will normally exit at the end of their initial engagement. However, there are opportunities for some to be offered re-engagement to LOS 22 and subsequently to age 55 but this is determined by the NCA re-engagement board in light of manning requirements.

In the event that an individual is suspended or withdrawn from flying duties or training, NCA are either allocated to additional aircrew training, remustered to a ground trade or discharged from the Service. Service airmen are required to revert to their former ground trade and engagement in a rank to be assessed by the manning authorities. If the terms of their former engagement have already expired, they are either discharged from the Service or they can apply to remain on the engagement they entered into on transfer to aircrew duties or a shorter period of service, subject to manning requirements. Anyone facing these circumstances should seek expert advice on the options open to them.

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