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RNZAF Serial Numbers Explained


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A Defence Force Order (Air Force) was issued in 1992, which formalised the policy for allocation of RNZAF aircraft serial numbers. It also introduced a change to instructional airframe numbering.

The policy for airworthy aircraft serial numbers rests heavily on historical precedent. The main features are as follows:

All serial numbers comprise "NZ" plus four figures and block reservations are:

NZ1xxx Primary trainers, utility types
NZ2xxx Flying training other than pilot.
NZ3xxx Rotary wing aircraft.
NZ4xxx Maritime aircraft.
NZ6xxx Strike aircraft.
NZ7xxx Transport aircraft.

Unallocated blocks are reserved for either new roles or for overflows when any of the above blocks become over subscribed.

The first 2 figures in combination comprise a "type number", which is unique to that type during its period of service. Type number combinations may be re-used provided the type is not the "replacement" aircraft type, and provided at least one year has passed since withdrawal of the previous type that used that type number.

The last 2 figures, the tail number, must form a unique combination with the type number. This means that historically, the same serial number must not be allocated more than once. **

When disposed of, RNZAF aircraft will normally have the serial numbers removed, but subsequent owners may enter a formal arrangement with the RNZAF to mark their aircraft with RNZAF numbers so long as there is no confusion with aircraft still in RNZAF service.

For instructional airframes, a "G" will be added to the end of the RNZAF serial number, but aircraft currently allocated INST serial numbers will continue to wear them, unless they are used for display purposes. Where there is no previous RNZAF serial number, the present 3 figure series will continue but with a "G" suffix rather than the "INST" prefix.****

* There has been duplication in the past with the Baffins and Walruses, Wellingtons and Vincents, Grebes and Gipsy Moths, Meteor and Beaver.

* For example Devon INST208 formerly NZ1827 would have become NZ1827G under the new system. Likewise, Vampire WR202 would have become 171G instead of INST171.


Page Authors: Darren Crick, Ivan Prince, Les Billcliff, Tony McDonald, Brendan Cowan & Martin Edwards
Page Updated
06 June 2013


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