Air Force Aviator Paerata Tauārangi

Air force aviators defend their country, keep the peace and provide disaster relief.

Air force aviators may do some or all of the following:

  • operate and maintain military equipment, including weapons, radios, planes and helicopters
  • provide security for airfields and planes in war zones
  • load and unload supplies from aircraft
  • train in areas such as navigation, first aid and fitness
  • take part in ceremonial events such as parades
  • assist in preventing illegal fishing and drug trafficking
  • participate in wartime-scenario training exercises
  • help in search and rescue efforts and as part of disaster relief efforts in New Zealand and overseas.

Air force aviators also train in a specific role or trade, such as aircraft technician with specific tasks and duties related to the role.

Physical Requirements

Airforce aviators must pass air force fitness tests, so they need to be fit, healthy and strong, with good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses). Some positions require you to have normal colour vision.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for air force aviators includes:

  • previous experience in the aviation industry
  • involvement in youth organisations such as Scouts, Young Eagles or Air Cadets
  • work or sporting experience in a team environment
  • experience in a trade such as automotive mechanics or electrical engineering.

Personal Qualities

Air force aviators need to be:

  • disciplined and able to follow instructions
  • careful and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • efficient and able to work well under pressure
  • practical and adaptable
  • able to work well in a team.


Air force aviators need to have knowledge of:

  • air force regulations, tactics and protocol, including health and safety, ethics, and conduct
  • combat skills
  • how to operate and maintain weapons and radio equipment
  • air force drills and exercises
  • first aid and rescue techniques
  • how to clean and care for a uniform.

Air force aviators also need to have skills and knowledge related to their field of specialisation, or trade. For example, air force systems technicians need knowledge of ICT equipment and electronic or cyber threats.


Air force aviators:

  • usually work regular business hours but may be expected to work long or irregular hours on training exercises or when on deployment
  • work and train at air force bases in New Zealand and overseas
  • work in most weather conditions and may have to work in combat situations
  • may spend long periods away from home on overseas assignments.

Subject Recommendations

A minimum of three years of secondary education is required, and you need 10 credits in NCEA literacy and numeracy. Some specialist trades require you to have 12 credits in NCEA Level 1 or 2 science, maths or English.

Useful subjects include construction and mechanical technologies, digital technologies, maths, physical education and physics.

Air Force Aviators can earn around $51K per year.

Pay for air force aviators varies depending on specialist trade, experience and rank.

  • Airforce aviator recruits in training usually earn $51,000 a year.
  • Aircraftsmen (recently graduated airforce aviators) usually earn between $61,000 and $70,000.
  • Leading aircraftsmen usually earn between $66,000 and $77,000.
  • Corporals and sergeants usually earn between $73,000 and $85,000.
  • Flight sergeants usually earn between $90,000 and $106,000.
  • Warrant officers can earn between $101,000 and $120,000.

Aviators may also get food and accommodation allowances and free medical and dental care.

Source: New Zealand Defence Force, 2023.

Air force aviators may progress in rank to:

  • aircraftsman
  • leading aircraftsman
  • corporal
  • sergeant
  • flight sergeant
  • warrant officer.

With further training, air force aviators may progress to become air force officers.

Air force aviators may specialise in: 

  • aviation
  • combat and security
  • engineering and technical trades
  • hospitality
  • intelligence, IT and communications
  • logistics
  • medical and health.


Years Of Training

<1 year of training required.

To be eligible for air force aviator basic training you need to:

  • be at least 17 years old to apply (18 years old at the completion of basic training)
  • have no criminal convictions
  • have 10 credits in NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy
  • be medically and physically fit
  • be a New Zealand citizen, or a New Zealand residence class visa holder.

If you meet the above requirements, you will also need to:

  • pass aptitude and fitness tests
  • attend a formal interview for your selected trade (area of specialisation).

Some trades differ in their age requirements, and may require you to have NCEA credits in specific subjects or a tertiary degree. Some trades require you to attend and pass a residential selection board.

Some air force trades require you to:

  • have 12 credits in NCEA Level 1 or Level 2 science, maths or English
  • have a driver's licence
  • pass a colour vision test.

On-the-job training

New air force recruits do 12 weeks basic training at the RNZAF base at Woodbourne near Blenheim.

After basic training, recruits do on-the-job training to learn the basics of a specific trade.

Air Force Aviator