Air Force Airman/Airwoman
Air Force airmen/airwomen defend their country, keep the peace and provide disaster relief.
Air force airmen/airwomen recruits usually earn
$34K per year
Depending on rank, graduated air force airmen/airwomen usually earn
$45K-$109K per year
Source: NZ Defence Force, 2017.
Pay for air force airmen/airwomen varies depending on specialist trade, experience and rank.
- Airforce airmen/airwomen recruits in training usually earn $34,000 a year.
- Aircraftsmen (recently graduated airforce airmen/airwomen) usually earn $45,000 to $50,000.
- Leading aircraftsmen can earn between $47,000 and $61,000.
- Corporals and sergeants can earn between $53,000 and $84,000.
- Flight sergeants can earn between $69,000 and $97,000.
- Warrant officers earn between $79,000 and $109,000.
Airmen/airwomen may also get food and accommodation allowances and free medical and dental care.
Source: New Zealand Defence Force, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Air force airmen/airwomen may do some or all of the following:
- operate and maintain military equipment, including weapons, radios and vehicles
- take part in combat
- load and unload supplies
- train in areas such as navigation, first aid and fitness
- take part in ceremonial events such as parades
- take part in peacekeeping operations
- 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 airmen/airwomen also train in a specific role or trade, such as aircraft technician with specific tasks and duties related to the role.
Skills and knowledge
Air force airmen/airwomen 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 airmen/airwomen also need to have skills and knowledge related to their field of specialisation, or trade. For example, Air force medics need knowledge of emergency care, nursing and surgical methods.
Air force airmen/airwomen:
- 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.
What's the job really like?
AJ finds out about being an air force communication and information systems (CIS) technician – 6.26 mins. (Video courtesy of the Royal NZ Air Force)
Clinton: You’re watching the Just the Job Air Force special. Let’s see how AJ gets on now as he investigates the Air Force’s communication and information systems trade.
AJ: Hi my name is AJ and I am keen to work with computers and electronic equipment.
Clinton: If it’s technology you're interested in then communication and information systems is the job for you AJ. The Air Force is a large multi-role organisation and accurate, reliable communications are required to keep everything running and CIS technician Nadia Temple is going to teach you how to keep in contact.
Nadia: Hi I’m Nadia.
AJ: Hi Nadia.
Nadia: The kind of things that CIS do are we provide radio communications to the aircraft when they’re in flight and we provide all the corporate services that you would be able to access on base – things like your email, your defence networks, your Internet, welfare phones.
Clinton: First up AJ has to learn how to talk on the radio. There are procedures that need to be learnt…
Nadia: Now, to start off any call, you have to state your call signs.
Clinton: …and a phonetic alphabet to master.
Nadia: Do you know much of the phonetic alphabet?
AJ: Most of it.
Nadia: OK, what’s “c”?
Nadia: Oh good! What’s “s”?
Nadia: And how about “y”?
Nadia: Oh you’re too good! Well we might go outside, set up our circuit and we’ll write our com rap and we’ll get on the radio.
AJ: OK cool.
Nadia: Let’s go.
Nadia: A good CIS person would be patient, and then motivated, be positive, need to have the ability to work hard in different environments and you need to have the ability to mould into any situations and be really approachable.
Clinton: The Pinzgauer is New Zealand Airforce’s all-terrain transport vehicle and takes CIS personal and equipment anywhere it needs to be.
Nadia: OK AJ, we’re still currently on base, but what we’re going to do is simulate one of the tactical exercises.
Nadia: The raising of the mast and putting up our antennas is the vital piece of the puzzle to all radio communications so when we deploy and go into the field we’ll park the Pinzgauer up, stick up our mask and antennae and get coms so that the aircraft can fly into the area that we’re in.
AJ has never even put up a tent before so erecting this eight-meter tall radio tower is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
Nadia: Hopefully we’re going to get it…Oh, our peg has come out…
Nadia: Communications is vital because without us the aircraft can’t go flying. Headquarters can’t tell our personnel that are deployed what to do when they’re overseas and there would be no connectivity between what the people in joint forces want and what we’re doing on our bases.
Nadia: Just push it in nice and tight, really hard. Use a bit of force.
Clinton: AJ’s call sign is Sabre and his mission is to tell headquarters how the radio array is set up, so that communications can begin.
AJ: Air Force Auckland, this is Sabre. Over.
Headquarters: Sabre, this is Air Force Auckland. Over.
AJ: Air Force this is Sabre, com rep, alpha, stop, Sabre.
Nadia: The first time you talk on the radio, it’s pretty nerve-racking, you do get a bit nervous, you’re normally talking to live aircraft so you’re a little bit conscious of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, if they’re listening, and if they’re joking about you behind your back!
Nadia: Just say, “Air Force Auckland, this is Sabre. Negative. Out.”
AJ: Air Force Auckland, this is Sabre. Negative. Out.
Nadia: Awesome! You just did your first radio call! Congratulations!
Clinton: It's not just radio communications Nadia is in charge of – she also sets up satellite communications.
Nadia: Basically, when our force elements deploy, they’ll take this small satellite dish with them and so they can have Internet wherever they go, all over the world.
AJ: Have you got a Facebook?
Clinton: After AJ changes his status to "I love the Air Force/CIS rulz" they head off to try out the Pinzgauer’s off-road capabilities.
Nadia: OK, another part of our job is four-wheel driving because we have to take these things into a lot of tricky places. We’ve got to learn how to drive them.
Nadia: For this you need a Class 3 licence so I can’t let you jump in the driver’s seat. The Pinzgauer has given the CIS the ability to deploy into the field in New Zealand and overseas and support force elements while they’re travelling to and from our bases and in any location around the world.
Nadia: So far in the CIS I’ve been to New Caledonia and Malaysia and all over New Zealand of course. We do really big exercises with other countries so there’s a huge opportunity to travel. I haven’t been deployed yet, but I’m just waiting in line for everybody else to go first.
Nadia: So we’re all set to go, the doors are just going to come up and we’ll fly away.
AJ: That’s cool Nadia.
Clinton: Unfortunately AJ isn’t on the Herc – he’s got more to learn on the ground.
Nadia: Now AJ we’re inside the com centre. This is where we take control and guard for early aircraft the Air Force has flying.
Nadia: Because you haven’t been properly trained, we can’t let you talk to live aircraft, but what we’re going to do is simulate that and let you have a talk on the radio.
AJ: That’s cool.
Nadia: Everybody that comes into CIS needs to have a very high security vetting. We go through lots and lots of training on what we’re allowed to tell people, how to use cryptographic items, how to secure cryptographic items, so we are continually keeping secrets from people and not telling people what we’re doing just because CIS is top-secret. We’re the secret squirrels of the Force!
Clinton: They might have to keep secrets but Nadia can definitely tell us how AJ did.
Nadia: AJ did really, really well. He’s really intelligent and a really nice guy. I would absolutely love him to join our trade, he would be a good guy and fit right in.
AJ: It was awesome. I enjoyed my time here at the Royal Air Force base. The people here are great. I’ve got my registration pack here and I can’t wait to make it in. And that’s over and out.
Clinton: To enter the Royal NZ Air Force (RNZAF) you must be a New Zealand citizen or have New Zealand permanent residency if you are a citizen of the UK, USA, Australia or Canada. You need to pass a series of tests, including a medical exam and fitness test, and interviews. You also need to be given security clearance, so any criminal convictions you have will be looked at. It is preferred that you have held a Class 1 driver's licence for at least six months.
Clinton: Well Ceilidh, we’ve been treated to a brilliant insight into some excellent Air Force careers. What is it that makes a career in the services so good?
Ceilidh: Clinton, the opportunities within the Air Force are so varied. The great thing is you’re paid while you train and the level of training is outstanding. It’s true, there’s lots of hard work, but you’ll never be bored and you also get the chance to travel. And, because you live on base, there’s a great social and sports scene, so heaps of fun too.
Clinton: Thanks Ceilidh, and thanks for joining us today on the show. Now, here’s Selwyn from Career Services with some more career advice.
To be eligible for air force airman/airwoman basic training you need to:
- be at least 17 years old
- 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 Air Force trades require you to:
- have 12 credits in NCEA Level 1 or Level 2 science, mathematics or English
- have a driver's licence
- pass a colour vision test.
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 Air Force trade.
- Defence Careers website - how to apply for the Air Force
- Defence Careers website - information on upcoming intakes
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, mathematics or English.
Useful subjects include construction and mechanical technologies, digital technologies, mathematics, physical education and physics.
Air force airmen/airwomen 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.
Useful experience for air force airmen/airwomen includes:
- training as a soldier in the Territorial Force/Army Reserve
- involvement in youth organisations such as Scouts and Cadets
- work or sporting experience in a team environment
- experience in a trade such as automotive mechanics or electrical engineering.
Airforce airmen/airwomen 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.
Find out more about training
- NZ Defence
- 0800 136 723 - www.defencecareers.mil.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as an air force airman/airwoman are good because:
- the Air Force usually recruits two to three times a year to replace those leaving
- the Air Force needs to replace ageing workers due to retire in the next 10 years.
Although there is good demand for air force airmen/airwomen, competition for some specialist roles can be high.
The New Zealand Air Force is made up of around 2911 staff.
Diversity of staff important
The Air Force is committed to diversity, and wants to increase the number of women and have more of a mix of cultures. Women typically make up about 17% of Air Force staff.
Chances good for some specialist roles
Fewer people are applying for positions in the following trades, so your chances of being accepted into basic training are better if you want to be:
- an intelligence specialist
- a safety and surface technician
- an aircraft technician
- a logistics specialist
- an aviation refueller.
Defence Force only employer
Airforce airmen/airwomen work for the New Zealand Defence Force in New Zealand and overseas.
- Air Force News, 'The RNZAF in 2097?' April 2017, (www.army.mil.nz).
- Defence Careers website, 'Army Intake Schedule', accessed July 2017, (www.defencecareers.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'Defence White Paper 2016', June 2016, (www.defencecareers.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'Future35 Our Strategy to 2035', accessed July 2017, (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'New Zealand Government Defence Capability Plan 2016', (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- New Zealand Defence Force, 'The 2015-2016 Annual Report', accessed July 2017, (www.nzdf.mil.nz).
- Patterson, J, 'NZ Defence Force to get $20bn Upgrade', 8 June 2016, (www.radio.co.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Air force airmen/airwomen may progress in rank to:
- leading aircraftsman
- flight sergeant
- warrant officer.
With further training, air force airmen/airwomen may progress to become air force officers.
Air force airmen/airwomen may specialise in:
- combat and security
- engineering and technical trades
- intelligence, IT and communications
- logistics and administration
- medical and health.
- Defence Careers website - information on Air Force jobs
- Royal New Zealand Air Force website – information on Air Force ranks
Last updated 26 April 2018