New Zealand Air Training Corps

New Zealand Air Training Corps
Active 1941 - present
Country  New Zealand
Allegiance HM The Queen
Branch New Zealand Cadet Forces
Type Volunteer Youth Organisation
Motto(s) We Train to Serve
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating
Commandant of the NZCF Lieutenant Colonel Grant Morris, RNZALC

The Air Training Corps or ATC is one of the three corps in the New Zealand Cadet Forces, the other two being the New Zealand Cadet Corps and Sea Cadet Corps. It is funded in partnership between the RNZAF and communities, and its members are civilians. Members have no obligation to head into the regular force, however some do choose to join New Zealand Defence Force. Unlike the United States Civil Air Patrol, service as an ATC cadet does not translate into higher pay, rank, or seniority in the NZDF.


The Air Training Corps was formed in September 1941, at a time when New Zealand was considered to be at risk from Japanese invasion and the British were not in a position to help. Its purpose was to train potential airmen in basic airmanship and provide an insight into Air Force work to prepare young men for the RNZAF when they became of age.

Compulsory Military Training (CMT) was reintroduced for all males of 18 years of age in 1951. The rate of growth in the cadet movement from 1948 to 1960 eventually proved counter-productive in the 1960s, as the Army could not effectively support the numbers while meeting their own commitments.

Compulsory Military Training was abolished again in 1958 and replaced by the ballot system of conscripted service for randomly selected 20-year-old males, which operated between 1960 and 1970. By 1964 the Cadet Forces reached a peak strength of 198 units, with 1000 officers and about 56,000 cadets.

Reorganisation saw many schools cease cadet support and by 1970 Sea Cadet and Air Training Corps (ATC) units had decreased to 55 units with 3,200 cadets.

In 1970 the government announced the decision to cease funding Cadets from the Defence budget. After community representation, the 1971 Defence Act established the New Zealand Cadet Forces as a volunteer organisation, for which the Minister of Defence was responsible. Open units were required to be initiated and funded by the community and the Chief of Defence Force was authorised to “direct and supervise” the Cadet Forces and provide military support which was initially confirmed as uniforms, training and some equipment at a cost of no greater than $400,000.

Centralised supervision was established by the Chief of Defence Force of all three Corps and a Commandant appointed with Regular Force Defence personnel, under the control of the Commandant, provided at 5 locations around New Zealand to support units. Cadet Forces Officers were appointed by the Minister of Defence with Cadet Forces commissions, on a voluntary, unpaid basis with authority to wear military uniform and rank.

Female cadets have been accepted since 1978.

By 1985 the ATC had increased to 50 units. A resurgence of interest since 1989, attributed to the movies Top Gun and Iron Eagle and the like, saw unit numbers expand to around 100 units; many in areas which did not previously have Cadet units.

At the beginning of 2010 there were 103 Cadet Force units In New Zealand, and cadet numbers approximately 4500 with 360 cadet officers.



The ATC is managed at a national level by the Commandant (usually a Regular Force Lieutenant-Colonel/Wing Commander/Commander), and his/her Staff at Defence Force Headquarters in Wellington. It is supported by the Air Training Corps Association of New Zealand (ATCANZ).


The country is divided into 3 areas, Northern (Northern half of the North Island), Central (Southern half of the North Island) and Southern (entire South Island). Each area has a NZCF Training and Support Unit, commanded by an Area Co-ordinator, with Advisors for Air Training Corps units.


Typical squadron organisation of an Air Training Corps unit in New Zealand.

Each unit is managed by the Cadet Unit Commander, in partnership with the unit's branch of the ATCANZ. A typical unit has between one and four officers filling various roles. The Cadet Unit Commander appoints all personnel in the unit to their positions. Each unit has an Adjutant, Training Officer and Stores Officer. These positions are usually filled by a commissioned officer (officers can hold multiple positions if necessary). One or more of the positions may have assistants, the assistants are often junior officers or Senior NCOs.

Each unit also has a cadet NCO holding the position of Squadron Warrant Officer (who doesn't necessarily hold the rank of Cadet Warrant Officer). If the unit is large enough, each flight of cadets may have a Flight Sergeant. The Warrant Officer is normally responsible for supervising the NCOs in their various tasks, as a result the Warrant Officer can skip the normal chain of command, enabling them to liaise directly with the Unit Commander.

How an individual unit is organised varies widely. A unit's organization depends on its size, number of officers, number of Cadet NCOs, facilities, and the organisational preference of the Cadet Unit Commander.

Cadet units are graded on their parading numbers, which dictates the number of officers each unit may have, and the number of Corporals, Sergeants, Flight Sergeants and Under Officers.

Uniform and Insignia

The uniform worn by ATC members is the same as that of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, except that for all ranks, the lettering on the bottom of the rank insignia shoulder boards reads CADET FORCES rather than NEW ZEALAND to differentiate ATC personnel from RNZAF personnel. Officer Service Dress Uniforms have a shoulder flash reading NEW ZEALAND CADET FORCES, rather than ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE for the same reason.

The cadets wear a cloth ATC cap badge on their flight caps, while officers and under officers wear the same cap insignia as RNZAF officers. Cadets wear a shoulder brassard. Cadets achievements such as a Duke of Edinburgh's Award, flying/navigation badge, marksman badge and training level badges are worn on the brassard, as well as the number and name of the squadron they parade with. Officers who were formerly cadets do not wear their cadet awards on their uniform.

Long service with the Cadet Forces is recognised with the Cadet Force Medal, awarded to NZCF Officers only, after 12 consecutive years of service. The qualification period for the CFM starts from when the candidate is both 18 AND a Cadet Under Officer rank or higher.


Cadet Members

Cadets can join between the ages of 13 to 15 and can stay on without promotion to the age of 18. Units provide uniform, bonds are sometimes held to ensure that they are returned. Unit fees are set by each unit annually dependant on the type of activities the unit has planned. Cadets may in time be promoted to NCO ranks. Cadet NCO ranks are based on the RNZAF ranks, and are:


The exceptions are that in the RNZAF, Under Officer is not a rank and LAC stands for Leading Aircraftman

However, whilst not all cadets become NCOs, all get the chance to train and progress through the different levels of training, Basic, Proficiency, and Advanced levels, by demonstrating knowledge and skills in cadet forces knowledge, general (regular) service knowledge, leadership, weapons safety, and aviation.

As of early 2007, the Chief of Air Staff has accepted the introduction of the rank of Leading Air Cadet (LAC). This is not regarded as an NCO rank but will be awarded to those cadets showing obvious leadership skills or to give seniority to long serving or older cadets who may not otherwise have been given a chance to go on a junior NCO course. This is the Air Training Corps equivalent to the NZCC Lance Corporal and Sea Cadet Corps' Able Cadet. Minimum qualification for this is as per the following:

Adult Members

Adult Members can serve in two capacities: Commissioned Officers or Civilian Instructors, known as Supplementary Instructors. Officers are commissioned into the New Zealand Cadet Forces, with the post-nominal letters NZCF, at the rank of Pilot Officer, and can be promoted to Flying Officer, and Flight Lieutenant after completing the necessary training and service. The Rank of Squadron Leader is reserved for Unit Commanders who have completed command training. Supplementary Instructors are civilians who help train cadets. They do not wear uniform, but they are generally treated similarly to officers by cadets. They are addressed as "Instructor" or by cadets choice, "Sir" or "Ma'am".


Parade Nights

Every unit holds Parade Nights around 2–4 hours long weekly during School Terms. Each parade night usually begins and ends with a parade. The starting parade is used to raise the RNZAF ensign, to inspect uniforms, and to inform the cadets on the parade night's activities. The final parade is used to lower the RNZAF ensign, and to inform the cadets on upcoming events in the unit. Between the parades, the cadets undergo classroom or practical instruction.


Units teach aviation theory as part of the parade nights, and units typically organise practical Flying Training for the cadets in partnership with local Aero Clubs. There is an annual National Aviation Course, consisting of separate Flying and Navigation flights. Those that opt for the Flying component spend two weeks covering both theory and practical lessons in flying, with First Solo being a common achievement. The Navigation component is a 1-week long theoretical and practical course covering the NZ CAA Private Pilot Licence syllabus. The practical content included 4 navigation flights building up from an initial 30 minute map reading exercise to a full 2 hour Navigation exercise covering up to 100 nautical miles (190 km) distance.


As with Flying, Gliding Training is organised by the unit in partnership with local Gliding Clubs. There are 2 concurrent annual week long Gliding Courses, which are held at Matamata and Waipukurau aerodromes. Cadets from all over New Zealand may attend these week long courses.


Most units conduct classroom training in bushcraft and survival skills, and hold regular Basic and Advanced bushcraft camps in the local area during weekends. There is a national bushcraft course held either at RNZAF Dip Flat in the South Island or at the Waiouru Army base in the North Island. The last Waiouru bushcraft course was held in 2011, with all future national bushcraft courses being held at RNZAF Dip Flat.


Units conduct regular range training with smallbore rifles. Some units have their own armouries and ranges at their parade hall. Cadets must pass a TOET (Test of Elementary Training) before being allowed on the range. Cadets who achieve high marks regularly (80 points (from 100) or higher) on the range may be awarded a marksmanship badge which is then worn on their brassard.

There are currently three different levels of marksmanship badges first being Rifle Competency Badge (RCB) which is awarded for shooting 60 points and above three times, next being First Class Shot (FCS) for scoring 70 points and above and finally the Marksman badge for shooting 80 points and above in a competition. The RCB must be held to eligible for the First Class Shot badge or Marksman badge. Cadets participate in annual shooting competitions, including the Commonwealth-wide competition, the Ffennell Commonwealth Shooting Shield.

Other activities


Tri-Corps Courses

ATC-only Courses


Efficiency Competition

At some point in the year, nominated squadrons are inspected by their Area Co-ordinator. He/She judges them on their standards of drill, knowledge of the ATC curriculum, and general efficiency in running the unit. Each area selects an area winner and then the 3 area winners compete for the National Efficiency Trophy.

Davy Memorial Drill Competition

The Davy Drill Competition is a Ceremonial Drill competition held annually, in each of the three areas. The competition is only open to the Air Training Corps and must consist of no less than 12 people in a marching formation, with one parade commander, which is to be of a Senior NCO rank. The winner of each area's competition moves onto the National Competition.

The winner of the National competition wins the Davy Memorial Trophy, which was donated in memorandum of Hr. H.A.C Davy, who was the Dominion President of the Air Training Corps Association for a number of years.

See also


  1. Henson, Lisa (28 April 2010). "Future forces taste life on base". Feilding Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011.

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