Air Explorer Insignia, AE-02Air Explorers (1949-1965)

In September of 1949, with the change of the Senior Scouts program to Explorers, Air Scouts became Air Explorers.  At first, the only initial change was in the name, and in a lower of the age to 14.  Later on, in 1953, there would be a change in the advancement program.  In 1959, the Air Explorer program was unaffected by the change in the Explorer program becoming Exploring.  It would be in October of 1965 that the Air Explorer program as it was know would come to an end, becoming nothing more then another career oriented program of Exploring to be known as Aviation Exploring.  Later, the October deadline was extended to March 15, 1966.

Air Explorer Program
The program of Air Explorers was identical to that of Air Scouts: a pre-flight aeronautics program for older boys inspired by the Air Force, much as the Sea Scout program was inspired by nautical traditions and the Navy.

Air Explorer Uniforms
Air Scouts and adult leaders wore uniforms of sky blue.  Community strips, state strips, and unit numbers were available in dark blue on sky blue to match until 1953, when they were dropped and replaced with standard white on red numerals and strips.  Some minor changes to uniforming included moving the rank patch to the left pocket, whereas before it was worn above the pocket.  This was done to bring Air Explorer uniforms more in line with other BSA programs.

Air Explorers shirt strip, AE-01Air Explorer adult collar pin, AS-04

Air Explorer uniform, 1950sAir Explorer Uniform, post-1953

Air Explorer Advancement Program
There was initially no change in the Air Explorer advancement program from the prior Air Scout program.  At first.  Then in December 1953, it was announced that Explorers and Air Explorers would use the same basic advancement program and progress toward the Silver Award.  A new Silver Award medal and patch were created, which more closely resembled the Ace Medal.  The color of the Explorer advancement awards was changed from dark blue to red.  And new Explorer Ratings were added to the existing ones.  However, the Air Explorers did not quite use the same requirements.  Rating requirements were a little different, and advancement requirements made earning the Aviation rating mandatory. This would be reflected in the new second edition handbook for Air Explorers which came out at the same time.  There was a grace period for those wanting to finish their Ace Awards, but it was expected that all Air Explorers would start earning the new Explorer awards.  This grace period ended on January 1, 1955.

Air Explorer Advancement, 1954-65Air Explorer Trail to Eagle, post 1954
With the demise of the Air Explorer program in 1965, there was again a grace period for earning Air Explorer Silver Awards, and statistics show a jump in 1965, which leveled off in 1966.
Air Explorer Advancement (1949-54)
Air Explorer Apprentice   NO PICTURE Air Explorer Observer     NO PICTURE
Air Explorer Craftsman    NO PICTURE Air Explorer Ace   NO PICTURE

Air Explorer Ace Medal & Knot (1949-54) 
Air Explorer Ace Medal with box, AE-15Air Explorer Ace Medal Air Explorer Ace Lapel Pin, AE-16Air Explorer Ace Award Knot, AE-17Air Explorer Ace Knot

Air Explorer Ratings (1949-54)
Observer Airman Rating Strip, AS-19Observer Airman Craftsman Airman Rating Strip, AS-20Craftsman Airman Ace Airman Rating, AS-21Ace Airman
Observer Builder Rating Strip, AS-22Observer Builder Craftsman Builder Rating Strip, AS-23Craftsman Builder Ace Builder
Observer Communicator Rating Strip, AS-25Observer Communicator Craftsman Communicator Rating Strip, AS-26Craftsman Communicator Ace Communicator Rating Strip, AS-21Ace Communicator
Observer Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-28Observer Mechanic Craftsman Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-29Craftsman Mechanic Ace Mechanic Rating Strip, AS-30Ace Mechanic
Observer Navigator Rating Strip, AS-31Observer Navigator Craftsman Navigator Rating Strip, AS-32Craftsman Navigator Ace Navigator Rating Strip, AS-33Ace Navigator
Observer Outdoorsman Rating Strip, AS-34Observer Outdoorsman Craftsman Outdoorsman Rating Strip, AS-35Craftsman Outdoorsman Ace Outdoor Rating, AS-36Ace Outdoorsman

Air Explorer Advancement (1954-65)
Air Explorer Apprentice Award, EX-33Apprentice Air Explorer Bronze Award, AE-51Bronze Air Explorer Gold Award, AE-52Gold Air Explorer Silver Award, AE-53Silver

Air Explorer Silver Medal & Knot (1954-65)
Air Explorer Silver Medal, AE-54Air Explorer Silver Medal Air Explorer Ace lapel pin, AE-56Air Explorer Silver Award Knot, AE-55Silver Award Knot

Air Explorer Ratings Strips (1954-65)
Aviation Air Explorer Rating, AE-31Aviation Communications Air Explorer Rating Strip, AE-32Communications
Construction Air Explorer Rating, AE-39Construction Emergency Skills Air Explorer Rating, AE-33Emergency Skills
Mechanics Air Explorer Ratings, AE-38Mechanics Navigation Air Explorer Rating, AE-34Navigation
Outdoor Skills Air Explorer Rating, AE-35Outdoor Skills Physical Fitness Air Explorer Rating, AE-36Physical Fitness
Vocational Exploration Air Explorer Rating, AE-55Vocational Exploration Weather Air Explorer Ratings Strip, AE-40Weather

Air Explorer merit badges (1942-52)
Aerodynamics Merit Badge, AS-58Aerodynamics Aeronautics Merit Badge, AS-57Aeronautics Airplane Design Merit Badge, AS-59Airplane Design Airplane Design Merit Badge, AS-60Airplane Structure

Air Explorer Unit Organization
With the change from Air Scouts to Air Explorers, National wanted all the Explorer programs (Explorer, Air Explorer, and Sea Explorer) to use the same terminology.  However, for traditions sake, the old terms were allowed.  The new Air Explorer Handbooks reflected this change by using only the new terminology.  To help match these up, see the comparison chart below.  Squadron Leader was really the Squadron Advisor.  Other then that the official terms for Air Explorers were identical to Explorers
Unit Term Comparison
Boy Scout Troop Explorer Post Air Explorer Squadron
Scoutmaster Post Advisor Squadron Leader
Senior Patrol Leader Senior Crew Leader Squadron Pilot
Patrol Crew Flight
Patrol Leader Crew Leader Flight Pilot
Scribe Post Secretary Squadron Secretary

Air Explorer Office Insignia, 1949-65
Squadron Leader, AS-05Squadron Leader Assistant Squadron Leader, AS-06Assistant Squadron Leader
Squadron Pilot, AE-10Squadron Pilot Assistant Squadron Pilot, AE-09Assistant Squadron Pilot
Flight Pilot, AS-09Flight Pilot Assistant Flight Pilot, AS-08Assistant Flight Pilot
Secretary, AE-06Secretary


The basic manual for Air Explorer was the Air Explorer Manual, which is the second edition of the Air Scout manual.   It detailed the new combined Explorer/Air Explorer Silver advancement program.  For the first few years of Air Exploring they still used the Air Scout Manual with the revised requirements.

The only manual for adult leaders was the generic Hints on Explorer Leadership.  Why nothing equivalent to a Scoutmaster Handbook was produced is unknown.
Air Explorer Literature
Air Explorer Manual (#3508)
2nd Edition
   1st     1951,Feb  (proof printing)
   2nd    1953,Dec   #3508  6M1253
   3rd    1954,Aug
   4th    1955,Jul
   5th    1957,Dec   #3508  6M1257
   6th    1958,May

paperback, 224pg, edited by Ted S. Holstein

Air Explorer Manual
Hints on Explorer Leadership (#3482)
   1949    200001149
   1950    25000450
   1951    25000151
   1954    11M154

paperback, 92pg

Hints on Exploring Leadership

year membership units ace awards silver awards
1949 6055 ? 150
1950 5464 ? 139
1951 4612 ? 55
1952 4995 ? 45
1953 4876 ? 51 971*
1954 6033 ? 79 1212*
1955 7982 558 0 1615*
1956 9041 636 -- 1957*
1957 10208 698 -- 2415*
1958 10968 ? -- 6890*
1959 9697 641 -- 1068
1960 8829 581 -- 147
1961 8853 589 -- 144
1962 8775 587 -- 167
1963 8580 577 -- 153
1964 7456 516 -- 81
1965 -- -- -- 152

*- these years include Explorers earning Silver, not just Air Explorers.

NOTE- in 1965 they stopped recording Air Explorers separately, as the program ended in October of that year.  The Silver Awards earned in 1965 and 66 were probably allowed for those finishing up their work.  Its normal to allow a year or so grace.  Note the Ranger Awards earned two years after that program ended.

Statistics taken from BSA Annual Reports to Congress.

Updated: 09/11/2002mrb