Why is US flag printed in reverse on US airplanes?

I travel quite often and have noticed that on all US commercial airliners, the US flag that is printed next to the plane’s ID number is always printed in reverse. Why?

I assume for the same reason that it’s backward on sleeve patches, so that it’s pointing in the direction it would point while being carried forward.

It’s so that the flag looks the right way round in the rear-view mirror of the aircraft in front. Like you see on the front of ambulances. :stuck_out_tongue:

Otto’s right, it’s sort of an “always forward, never retreat” thing. If the airplane had hands and was carrying a flag, it would whip back so the flagpole was foremost and the stripes at the back. Only if the plane were backing away very quickly would the flag look “normal” with the stripes forward.

I think it looks all kinds of wrong, but there is a reason for it.

I’d never noticed this and had to Google some images to see for myself. In the process I found a cite: here. I figured I might as well add it to the thread, for what it’s worth.

Do US pilots tend to tailgate much :wink:

Not so much the pilots, but the submarine captains seem to do so. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/world/middle-east/article2137908.ece

Precisely – the flag is displayed hoist-forwards.

On the port side of the plane, the flag should be displayed normally.

Why does it look wrong to you? For the life of me, I can’t understand why people see it as a “backwards” flag. That’s how the flag looks from that side. Planes can’t fly in reverse. If there was an actual flag there, it would like the exact same way from that side.

It’s not “in reverse.” That’s what the flag looks like from that side. Have you looked at an actual flag? There are two sides.

What if you put it on a backwards-facing treadmill?

Because the overwhelming majority of pictures of a flag in artwork, websites, school mastheads, stamps and everywhere else has the field on the left. It’s just how I’m used to seeing it, seeing as I’m not military. In an actual flag, it doesn’t bother me one bit, but in a clip art style picture of a flag, it looks backwards. Google Image American Flag and count 'em up.

Sorry to bump this, but I just accidentally came across this image and now am wondering what’s up. Apparently US Airways didn’t get the memo or something.


That is U.S. Airways’s logo. It is not meant to be an accurate representation of the U.S. flag.

Some people don’t seem to get a flag is meant to be seen from both sides. I think the text books always putting the grommet end to the left when illistrating flags makes people consider the other side as not valid.

If you look closely at that image, there is a US flag on that airliner, hoist at the right, next to the registration number. :slight_smile: The colours on the flag are rather hard to see.

This is another reason why having a flag with a vertical axis of symmetry is a good thing.

A flag is properly displayed with the canton (in this case, the union, blue with stars) in dexter chief, i.e., at upper right from the perspective of the flag itself, or of someone holding it in front of them. Hence, it’s in upper left from our perspective. (Where’s the right ear of someone facing you? To the left of his face, from your own perspective.)

However, when a flag is displayed in motion, or painted stationarily on an object intended to be in motion, it is carried, displayed, or painted canton foremost, and hence “in reverse” if on the right side of the object.


My point is you are meant to see it from either side. We’d sew on a backing if it wasn’t.

True in essence.

But consider the variety of places you might see a flag. Some of them will be “displayed” – hung at full spread against a wall, for example. When you “display” a flag in that manner, flag etiquette calls for it to be hung in the “everybody knows how” manner – blue star-spangled union at upper left as you view it (the flag’s own upper right).

When a flag is being carried unfurled, the union is to be at top on the attached-to-the-pole side, and hence people to the right of the drection in which a flag is moving will see it “in reverse” from the display criteria.

I don’t think we’re disagreeing here, just having trouble clarifying what we’re saying to each other. I have no disagreement with your point; what I was discussing is how it’s supposed to be displayed when only one side is visible, as in when it’s hung against a wall.