Deck Flying Signals
(From the collection of Wing Commander Joseph Reginald Cyril Lane, R.A.F.)


Flying-off Signal . The executive signal to fly-off aircraft is a green hand flag displayed on the bridge; this is for the information of' the flight deck officer only.

A red hand flag similarly displayed, will suspend flying-off operations, until it is replaced by the green flag.

Lights of a corresponding colour are displayed in a similar manner and position for conducting night flying operations.

Normal landing signal.
The AFFIRMATIVE flag is the executive signal to land-on, and no aircraft is under any circumstances whatever to attempt a landing, unless this flag is displayed.

This signal will normally be displayed in conjunction with the distinguishing signal addressing the formation or aircraft required to land-on.

The affirmative flag is hauled in as each air­craft lands, and is redisplayed when the deck is ready for the next landing.

Emergency Landing Signals
Depending upon the degree of urgency of a premature landing, the appropriate procedure here detailed is to be closely observed.

(a) Where the urgency of landing-on admits of no delay, single white Very's lights are immediately to be fired when in sufficient proximity to the carrier, a W/T. or R/T. message being made pre­viously whenever circumstances permit. This same procedure also applies in the event of similar emergency arising at night.

(b) This signal is acknowledged by day in the carrier by a large square WHITE FLAG run athwart the flight deck. This warns all other aircraft to keep clear, and also annuls any other landing signal (and distinguishing signal) already flying, these being immediately hauled in, and a second white flag being displayed, in their stead. The affirmative flag must then be exposed. in the usual manner before the emergency landing may be proceeded with.

(c) Where, without risk, of forced landing, a small delay can be accepted, and the carrier consequently put to less inconvenience, the aircraft is to fly past the ship, while a hand signal is given by waving downwards outside the fuselage; a W/T. or R/T. message should also be made previously whenever circumstances permit.

The night equivalent of the hand signal is the flashing of aircraft navigation lights.

(d) This (day) emergency signal is acknowledged in the carrier by a white flag waved from the bridge or control position, the full procedure described in sub-para. (b) above, being exercised as soon as the carrier is prepared to receive the aircraft.

(e) Should an emergency landing be required to receive more than one aircraft at the same time the distinguishing signal of the aircraft which is to land-on first will be displayed in addition to the affirmative flag and white flag.

(f) No special emergency night landing procedure is yet in force in aircraft carriers.

23. "No Landing" signal. - At the last moment it may sometimes become necessary to prohibit landing, although the affirmative flag may already be displayed.

In these circumstances a large square RED FLAG is run athwart the flight deck, the affirmative flag is at once hauled in, and all landing operations remain suspended while the red flag is displayed. This signal may be supplemented by day by two rod Very's lights, fired one from either quarter of the flight deck, which in themselves also constitute the equivalent night "No landing" signal.

24. Recall Signal. - "Z" made from an aircraft carrier by flashing or W/T is an order to aircraft to close the ship and look out for landing signals or other orders.

Formations in the waiting position may be called to the circling position by flashing "Z" immediately followed by the last two figures of the formation's squadron number. The flight distinguishing letter must be included in termination if it is desired to call an individual flight.

25. "Closed Carrier" signal. - Flag G, flown singly (or inferior to distinguishing signals), directs all aircraft (or those addressed) to proceed to the shore base.

26. Similarly, Flag G, immediately superior to a distinguishing colour flag (paras. 1 to 19), directs all aircraft, or those addressed, to proceed for further orders to the carrier whose distinguishing flag is displayed.

27. Arresting Gear Signal - The Pilot Jack indicates to aircraft that arresting gear is in use for landing while this flag is displayed. This is not a permissive signal to land on, and the affirmative flag must be displayed in the usual manner before landing may be proceeded with.

28. Wind Speed Signals. - Normal landings; Flag H indicates to air­craft that wind speed over the deck is high - over 35 knots, Simi­larly, Flag L indicates low - under 25 knots. Arresting gear landings - Flag H indicates to aircraft that wind speed over the deck is relatively high - over 25 knots. Similarly, Flag L indicates relatively low - under 15 knots.

29. Bombing and Gunnery Practice Signal. - "R" Commercial, run ath­wart the flight deck, is the permissive signal for aircraft to commence bombing or gunnery practices. This signal will normally be supplemented by searchlight projector beams exposed in the direction of approach of the aircraft concerned.

30. Dummy Run Signal - Flag X, worked in a similar manner to the affirmative flag (para. 21), directs a pilot undergoing deck landing training to fly low over the deck without actually making a landing.

If the pilot should wish to continue dummy runs, he will turn to port after passing over the deck, a turn to starboard indicating that he is ready to attempt a landing, in which case the affirmative flag in may be substituted for Flag X, and the landing proceeded with.

31. Delay Signal. - Flag D, flown singly or immediately superior to a numeral group, indicates that deck flying operations are delayed, a numeral group indicating probable duration of delay in tens of minutes.

32. A similar signal may be made by flashing between carriers, should a carrier for any reason be delayed and wish to indicate this fact to her consort/s.

Procedure for Using Flying Signals
33. The foregoing flying signals are supplementary to the means pro­vided, in the Aircraft Appendix to the Fleet Code, for communication with aircraft in flight.

34. The flag signals contained in the preceding instructions are all flown horizontally, either on outboard booms, or, in the case of certain special flags, (para. 36 (b)), across the flight deck. For these special flags, halyards are on each occasion travelled athwartships abaft the forward lift.

35. The signal booms are level with the flight deck, and project hori­zontally outwards from the ship's side. Three booms are fitted, on the port side (numbered 1, 2 and 3, from forward aft), and one boom (No. 1.) is fitted to starboard.

Signals are read from forward aft and from outboard inwards on each boom.

36. Flying signals are displayed in the following positions: -
(a) Mechanical Shutter.
Landing affirmative (exposed or obscured.)

(b) Athwart Flight Deck. Emergency Landing Signal (para. 22) "No Landing" Signal (para. 23). Bombing and Gunnery Practice Signal (para. 29).

(c) No. 1 Boom (Port) Distinguishing signal of aircraft unit (paras. 9-18) landing on and/or addressed by informative signal displayed. Emergency Landing Signal (Repeat White Flag - para. 22.)

(d) No. 1 Boom (Starboard) Distinguishing signal of aircraft next to land on after unit at present landing.

(e) No. 2 Boom (Port). Landing Affirmative (Normal Landing Signal - para. 21.) "Closed Carrier" Signal (paras. 25 and 26.) Dummy Run signal (para. 30.) Delay Signal (para. 31.)

(f) No. 3 Boom (Port). Arresting Gear Signal (para. 27.) Wind Speed Signals (para. 28.)

(g) Round-Down boom (Port) Landing Affirmative (alternative position, if preferred.)

37. The Landing Affirmative (Normal Landing Signal - para. 21.) is, therefore, normally displayed in the following positions: -
Mechanical Shutter.
No. 2 boom (port), or, Round-down boom (port); the port after W/T. mast being suitable for this purpose.

38. The Landing Affirmatives and other Deck Flying Signals (paras. 21 - 23), also the Informative Signals, flown at the port booms, are repetitions of identical hand flags shown on staves from the bridge or control position. Flying-off Signals (para.20) are shown in a similar manner.

39. The establishment of hand flags, required for use on the bridge or in the control position, therefore includes one each of the following: -

40. Green, Red (dual purpose - paras. 20 & 23), Affirmative White, "G", Pilot Jack, "H", "L", "R" Commercial, "X" and "D". ("Z", not being flown at port booms, is not required.)

41. Distinguishing signals flown at Nos. 1 Boom (port and starboard) are repetitions of characters shown on a board from the bridge or control position.

42. The first substitute for flags (Affirmative Flag) is never to be employed as the second speed flag, displayed by aircraft carriers to their attendant destroyers, on account of its liability to confusion with the Landing Affirmative.
(All photos from the collection of Wing Commander Joseph R. C. Lane, R.A.F.)
Courtesy of Chris Lane

Deck Flying Signals
Page published July 10, 2013