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Air Force Aviator

Paerata Tauārangi

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


Air force aviator recruits usually earn

$51K per year

Warrant officers can earn

$101K-$120K per year

Source: NZ Defence Force, 2023.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an air force aviator are average for those wanting to enter the role, but good for those with experience.


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.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

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.

Skills and knowledge

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.

Working conditions

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.

Entry requirements

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.

Secondary education

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.

Personal requirements

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.

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.

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.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Defence Force
0800 136 723 -

What are the chances of getting a job?

Chances of getting a job as an air force aviator are average because:

  • the Air Force usually recruits two to three times a year.

Although there is good demand for air force aviators, competition for some specialist roles can be high.

The New Zealand Air Force is made up of around 2,911 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 aviators work for the New Zealand Defence Force in New Zealand and overseas.


  • Air Force News, 'The RNZAF in 2097?' April 2017, (
  • Defence Careers website, 'Army Intake Schedule', accessed July 2017, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'Defence White Paper 2016', June 2016, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'Future35 Our Strategy to 2035', accessed July 2017, (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'New Zealand Government Defence Capability Plan 2016', (
  • New Zealand Defence Force, 'The 2015-2016 Annual Report', accessed July 2017, (
  • Patterson, J, 'NZ Defence Force to get $20bn Upgrade', 8 June 2016, (

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

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.


Two men in high-viz vests stand under the wing of an aeroplane by the wheel, looking at a clipboard

Aviators operate and maintain military equipment, including planes and helicopters

Last updated 28 August 2023