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Official Guide to the Government Court: N.Z. Centennial Exhibition

Air Department

Air Department

In April, 1913, a group of enthusiastic people in England formed what was known as the Imperial Air Fleet Committee, and in a letter addressed to the High Commissioner for New Zealand, wrote:—"There is a growing feeling that the time has arrived when some special effort should be made to strengthen the resources of the Empire in aerial craft, in view of the great advances now being made in this direction by foreign powers."

It is interesting to trace the events which led from these early days up to the creation of the Air Department, under the administration and control of which a modern Air Force has been established, commercial aviation has been developed on sound lines, and aero clubs function to the definite advantage of the people. The first unit of the Imperial Air Fleet—a monoplane christened "Britannia"—was offered to, and accepted by, the New Zealand Government, and arrived on September 29, 1913. On the outbreak of war the Britannia was shipped with the Main Body and handed over to the War Office. The same committee subsequently presented to the Dominion another aircraft, the Nottingham, which was handed over to the British authorities for the use of the Royal Flying Corps.

After the war the British Government made a gift to the New Zealand Government of two De Havilland 9's in replacement of the Britannia and Nottingham.

Training of pilots was first undertaken by flying schools at Kohimarama and Sockburn. At these schools nearly 300 New Zealanders received training up to the standard of the Royal Aero Club.

In 1920, the British Government, in order to assist and encourage the formation of Air Forces in the Dominions, offered a free gift of 100 machines to each.

The New Zealand government finally accepted a gift of 33 machines. Not having any place to store them when they arrived, they were loaned to the two flying schools. In 1923, it was decided to form a Reserve of Officers and to give them annual refresher courses.

With the acquisition of Wigram Aerodrome in 1923 definite progress was made, and the formation of the New Zealand Permanent Air Force, to be a part of the Permanent Military Forces, with headquarters at Wellington, and the New Zealand Air Force, to be a part of the Territorial Forces, was gazetted on June 14 of that year.