Air Force Officer Āpiha Tauārangi

Air force officers plan and supervise flying missions, repair and maintenance of planes, helicopters and radio equipment.

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

  • plan flight paths, fly and navigate planes and helicopters.
  • supervise maintenance and repair of aircraft and ground equipment
  • budget, and manage resources assigned to them
  • plan and provide air movement of freight and personnel
  • design ground to air communication networks
  • help in search and rescue operations, and disaster relief efforts in New Zealand and overseas
  • organise and conduct training.

Air force officers also have duties related to their area of specialisation. For example, air force pilots carry out tasks related to that role, such as preparing flight plans and flying aircraft.

Physical Requirements

Air force officers 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 officers includes:

  • previous flying experience or work with planes
  • involvement in youth organisations such as Scouts, Young Eagles and Cadets
  • work or sporting experience in a team environment
  • experience in a trade, such as automotive mechanics, electrical engineering or mechanical engineering.

Personal Qualities

Air force officers need to be:

  • disciplined and organised
  • confident
  • careful and accurate, with an eye for detail
  • efficient and able to work well under pressure
  • able to manage and lead people
  • able to solve problems and make decisions
  • able to give instructions well.


Air force officers need to have:

  • leadership, management and budgeting skills
  • knowledge of air force regulations, tactics and protocol, including health and safety, ethics, and conduct
  • knowledge of drills and parade requirements
  • knowledge of how to operate and maintain weapons, radio and specialist aviation equipment
  • problem solving skills
  • first aid and rescue skills.

Air force officers also need to have skills and knowledge related to their field of specialisation or trade. For example, air force intelligence officers need knowledge of mission planning and electronic warfare capability.


Air force officers:

  • usually work regular business hours but may 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 all weather conditions and may have to work in combat situations
  • may spend long periods away from home on overseas assignments.

Subject Recommendations

NCEA Level 2 with a minimum of 18 credits in English, maths and science is required to be an air warfare officer or pilot. NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training for all other types of air force officers. Useful subjects include English, maths, science and technology subjects, engineering, international relations, history and physical education.

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

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

  • Air force officer cadets usually earn $51,0000 a year.
  • Pilot officers usually earn between $71,000 and $84,000.
  • Flying officers usually earn between $78,000 and $98,000.
  • Flight lieutenants usually earn between $90,000 and $117,000.
  • Squadron leaders can earn between $101,000 and $133,000.

Air force officers may also get food and accommodation allowances, free medical and dental care.

Source: New Zealand Defence Force, 2023.

Air force officers may progress in rank to:

  • pilot officer
  • flying officer
  • flight lieutenant
  • squadron leader
  • wing commander
  • group captain
  • air commodore
  • air vice-marshal
  • air marshal.

Air force officers may specialise in: 

  • aviation
  • engineering
  • hospitality
  • intelligence, IT and communications
  • logistics and administration
  • medical and health.

Years Of Training

<1 year of training required.

To be eligible for air force officer 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 a minimum of NCEA Level 2 with 18 credits in English, maths and science
  • hold a current and clean driver's licence
  • 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)
  • attend and pass a residential selection board.

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

On-the-job training

New air force officer cadets are posted to RNZAF Woodbourne for 26 weeks to complete their initial Officer Training Course.

Air Force Officer