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An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term (aviateur in French) was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis (meaning bird), coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne (Aviation or Air Navigation). The term aviatrix (aviatrice in French) is used for a female aviator.

The term is often applied simply to pilots, but is often extended to include aviation navigators, bombardiers, Weapon Systems Officers, and Electronic Warfare Officers. This should not be confused with the term naval aviator, which refers to crew members in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard.

The term "aviator", as opposed to "pilot" or other terms, was used more in the early days of aviation, before anyone had ever seen an airplane fly, and it had connotations of bravery and adventure. For example, the editors at the Dayton Herald, in an article of December 18, 1903, described the Wright brothers' first airplane as thus: "The weight, including the body of the aviator, is slightly over 700 pounds".

To ensure the safety of people in the air as well as on the ground, it soon became a requirement for an aircraft to be under the operational control of a properly trained, certified and current pilot at all times, who is responsible for the safe and legal completion of the flight. The first certificate was delivered by the Aéro-Club de France to Louis Blériot in 1908, followed by Glenn Curtiss, Léon Delagrange, and Robert Esnault-Pelterie. The absolute authority given to the "pilot in command" is derived from that of a ship's captain.[citation needed]

In recognition of the aviators' qualifications and responsibilities, most militaries and many airlines around the world award aviator badges to their pilots, as well as other air crews.


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