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Home > Curator's Corner > October 2009 > The Colors of the Flight Deck
The Colors of the Flight Deck
Intrepid Teens Blog
Posted: 10/26/2009 10:53:17 AM

During flight operations, the flight deck of the aircraft carrier comes to life, and the crewmen responsible for these operations are well aware of the dangers involved. Early on, the US Navy recognized these dangers and established a color-coded uniform system that would differentiate the various responsibilities of flight crewmen. Anyone not wearing the designated colors would not be permitted on the flight deck. The uniform regulations also assure better communication between crewmen as various activities are executed.

Aircraft handling officers, catapult officers, and plane directors wear yellow jerseys over their clothing to designate their responsibilities. Above is an image of two plane directors standing by as a Skyhawk is about to be launched on the Intrepid’s flight deck in the 1960s. Crewmembers wearing blue jerseys work primarily with the yellow jerseys, operating tractors, forklifts, and aircraft elevators, as well as securing and chaining planes to the deck. The catapult and arresting gear crew wear green jerseys. Pictured below are three Intrepid crewmen during the 1971 Eastlant cruise wearing the green jerseys and helmets.

Plane captains, who maneuver the planes as needed and assure that all maintenance work is performed prior to launching, wear brown jerseys. “Grapes” are known for their purple jerseys, and they are responsible for fueling the planes. Ordnance, crash, and salvage crews are designated by their bright red jerseys. Finally, white jerseys are worn by the landing signal officers (LSO), but also a variety of others who are on stand-by and available when needed by the flight deck crews. These include safety and medical personnel as well as the squadron plane inspectors.

As flight operations have evolved over the decades, new positions have been added to the regulations, but the basics of the color-coded uniform system remains unchanged as it has proven to be successful. For more information on this topic, check out “Color-Coded Sailors: On the Flight Deck, Your Shirt Says It All” at

Britta K. Arendt
Collections Manager