A pilot or aviator is a person actively involved in flying an aircraft. Pilot is a somewhat more precise term, as the pilot by definition directly controls the aircraft whereas the slightly broader term aviator is a person who, though actively involved in flying the aircraft (whether plane, rotary-wing, powered or unpowered), does not necessarily directly control its path. People who fly aboard an aircraft, such as passengers and cabin crew, who are not involved in the aircraft's flight systems are not generally considered aviators, but crew such as navigators, and flight engineers are generally included.[citation needed]

To ensure the safety of people in the air and on the ground, early aviation soon required that aircraft 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 Aéro-Club de France delivered the first certificate to Louis Blériot in 1908—followed by Glenn Curtiss, Léon Delagrange, and Robert Esnault-Pelterie. The absolute authority given to the "pilot in command" derives from that of a ship's captain.[citation needed]

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

The first recorded use of the term aviator (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), now archaic, was formerly used for a female aviator. These terms were used more in the early days of aviation, before anyone had ever seen an airplane fly, and it was used to denote bravery and adventure. For example, the editors at the Dayton Herald, (in an article of December 18, 1903) described the Wright brothers' first airplane: "The weight, including the body of the aviator, is slightly over 700 pounds"

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