Young women try out Air Force life

Student getting an understanding of technical aviation trades through hands-on learning during School to Skies 2020

Forty female secondary school students will get a taste of life in the Royal New Zealand Air Force these April school holidays.

Now in its fifth year, School to Skies will offer technical and aviation-focussed experience for young women from all over New Zealand at Base Ohakea from 17–24 April 2021.

School to Skies will give them a unique exposure to, and detailed understanding of, technical aviation trades through hands-on learning.

The week-long immersion camp shows young women how maths, science, engineering and technology can translate to a real-life career. Participants will get to fix real aircraft, fly a simulator, plan a mission, build electronic components, gain navigation skills and learn more about engineering fundamentals.

Flight Lieutenant Emma Raven, School to Skies programme leader, said hundreds apply every year to attend the camp, with many wanting to know how subjects they enjoy such as maths and physics can be applied post-high school.

“It’s encouraging to see the number of girls who want to come and see what the Air Force is all about and how they could potentially fit into an organisation like ours.

“Whether you want to spend your days in the skies or keep your feet on the ground, we have a diverse range of trades here, all of which use STEM expertise,” Flight Lieutenant Raven said.

“Participants will also have the unique opportunity to speak face-to-face with servicemen and women who are employed in technical roles and have all of their questions and concerns answered.

“Giving these young women role models for them to look up to and aspire to become has proven to be an essential component.”

It is hoped School to Skies will encourage more females into technical trades, and to consider a career with the Air Force.

To date more than 150 young women have participated in the programme and a dozen have gone on to apply to the Air Force. Some have already completed their recruit training and are now starting specialist trade training in careers including Air Warfare, Pilot and Aircraft Technician.

The programme is open to all female Year 13 students who are taking a Level 3 NCEA (or equivalent) maths AND science subject.

School to Skies runs 17–24 April and is free, the only cost to be met by participants is travel to and from the Manawatū.

Applications close 7 March 2021. More information is at

School to Skies student from the 2020 programme learning the ropes in the cockpit of an aircraft
School to Skies students from the 2020 programme look on as a RNZAF P-3K2 Orion taxis at Whenuapai




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New Zealand Defence Force

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We are the New Zealand Defence Force. We are a Force for New Zealand. This is our official account.

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