How should the Union Flag be flown?

Whenever we bring a new aircraft into service we’re rightly questioned about how we display our flags and mascots. As most people will know, the Union Jack, (or Union Flag), should always be displayed with the wider diagonal white stripe above the red diagonal stripe in the half nearest the flag pole, as Scotland’s St Andrew’s Cross takes precedence over Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Cross.

But what if it’s displayed without a flag pole, as in the case of our aircraft’s nose? This has prompted some people to ask if our mascots are holding the flag correctly on one side of the plane, but incorrectly on the other. For an explanation, we asked our senior design and development engineer Dave Napper, who was more than happy to explain.

Union Flag orientation

“When a flag is placed on an aircraft or ship, the nose/bow is designated as the flagpole. So the left hand side appears as we’re used to seeing it, but the right hand side is often questioned.

“We have installed the right hand flag using the flag pole method, so that the rule is upheld. This is in line with the flag protocol as outlined by the Flag Institute, who say that: ‘When flags are painted onto a vehicle, or on the tail fin of an aircraft, the flag on the port side should show the obverse of the flag (ie. the flagpole on the left), while that on the starboard side should show the reverse (ie. the flagpole on the right).”

So there you have it! And if that’s left you wondering what else you don’t know about the nation’s flag, here are another six facts about the Union Jack:

  • The flag represents three of the four UK countries. The Welsh dragon does not appear on the Union Flag because when the first flag was created in 1606, the Principality of Wales was already united with England and was no longer a separate principality.
  • No one is quite sure how the term ‘Union Jack’ came to be, but one theory is it’s derived from the word ‘jack’, in use before 1600 to describe a small flag flown from the mast mounted on the bowsprit of a sailing vessel.
  • To deliberately fly the flag upside down is a signal indicating a situation of ‘distress’. It is also “lese Majeste” (which means: insulting the Crown), and is theoretically still a crime in the UK and its commonwealth.
  • A hangover from colonial rule, the Union Flag remains a part of many other nations and territories’ flags, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Bermuda and British Antarctic Territory.
  • In 2016, more than 2 million New Zealanders voted in a nationwide referendum to decide whether to keep the British Union Jack on their flag, and 57% voted in favour of the status quo.
  • When a flag is flown at half-mast, it is not flown in the middle of the flagpole but at a point two thirds up. A flag flying at half-mast must first be raised to the top and allowed to rest there a second, before being lowered to the half-mast position.