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Royal New Zealand Air Force



While policy was being formulated in Wellington, the fate of the two flying schools at Auckland and Christchurch hung in the balance. The end of the war and the cessation of the training of military pilots had deprived them of their regular income, and their future was uncertain. Colonel Bettington had recommended that the Canterbury Aviation Company should be given the job of providing initial training of pilots and mechanics for the Air Force. The New Zealand Flying School at Kohimarama, he considered, would not be needed for Air Force training. He suggested that, in recognition of the excellent work it had done during the war, its equipment should be bought by the Government.

His recommendations were not immediately acted upon. As an interim measure, the schools were both subsidised by grants of £150 a month to keep them going until future policy could be decided, and in addition they made a certain amount of revenue from charter flights and joy rides.

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In the two years immediately following the war both schools were employed on experimental airmail services. The first such flight was made on 16 December 1919, between Auckland and Dargaville. Others followed, and for two months in 1920 regular services were run on the routes AucklandDargaville, Auckland- Whangarei, and AucklandThames. In the South Island a service between Christchurch and Timaru was flown for some months in 1921. One between Christchurch and Wellington was seriously considered, but nothing came of it.

Air mails were not a paying proposition, and after trying them the Government reverted to paying straight subsidies to the schools.

In 1921 the proposal to give refresher training to ex-RAF pilots was put into effect. In that year and the two following, the Canterbury Aviation Company gave refresher courses to about forty officers, at a cost to the Government of £100 a head.

Captain Isitt, who had been posted to Sockburn in 1919 to look after the aircraft left behind by Colonel Bettington, supervised the training. He was assisted by a staff of three. Lieutenant Denton,1 Adjutant of the 1st (Canterbury) Regiment, had been attached to him as part-time equipment officer in May 1920, and early in 1921 two Army personnel, Corporal W. C. Townsend and Private F. A. Merrin, were posted as ledger-keeper and storeman.

In 1923 a refresher course for twelve officers was held also at the New Zealand Flying School, Kohimarama. This was the only military use made of the school, and the following year it was closed down. The Government bought up its equipment but made no use of it. The aircraft by that time were worn out and unserviceable and were relegated to the scrap heap.

The duties of the embryonic Air Force, besides the maintenance of service aircraft and the supervision of service training, included the control of civil aviation. At that time this comprised the inspection of civil aircraft and of aerodromes which were being laid out in various parts of the country; the granting of licences to pilots; and the regulation of Government assistance to civil companies.

1 Gp Capt T. J. Denton, OBE, m.i.d.; born NSW, 7 Nov 1888; enlisted in NZ Permanent Staff 1911; Canterbury Mtd Rifles (Capt) 1914–18 War; seconded to RFC 1917; returned to NZ 1919; transferred to NZPAF as Equipment Officer, 1 Oct 1923; Staff Officer to DAS, 1934–37; attached RAF 1938–41; Director of Equipment 1942; Chief Inspector of Equipment 1942–46; Director of Equipment 1946; retired 1947.