Every participant in New Zealand’s aviation community shares a responsibility for safety and security. Our role is to see that aviation participants meet the standards set by the Minister of Transport.

New Zealand’s civil aviation community is made up of licensed pilots, engineers, and air traffic controllers and aviation operators, such as airlines, aerodromes, flying schools, and aircraft maintenance organisations.

The safety standards set by the Minister of Transport are called the Civil Aviation Rules. The Minister makes those rules in the public interest, after consulting with us and the aviation community.

The rules continually evolve in response to changes in the aviation environment, technology and experience. The Director can make emergency rules, and may require certain immediate actions in some circumstances.

Being an aviation community participant

To be a part of the civil aviation system, a person or organisation must have an ‘aviation document’. That might be a licence to fly, or a certificate to operate an aviation organisation. They also need to have assured us that they are a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold that document. That’s someone who acts in a safe and responsible manner, both professionally and personally.

The standards set out in the rules are the minimum needed for aviation safety. Once licensed or certificated, a person or organisation has to continue to meet those minimum standards. If a person or organisation is not meeting even the minimum standards, they may be subject to restrictions or have their their licence or certificate revoked.

Once aviation documents have been revoked, the holders must start the entire certification process again from the beginning if they want to re-enter the system. Their past actions will have a significant impact on whether they are granted an aviation documents and on the risk rating they attract.



We assess the level of risk posed to aviation safety by each operator. Sources of information for assessment includes audits, spot checks, enforcement actions, safety investigations, safety analysis, medical checks, and financial status.

Operating certificates are issued for up to five years, after which operators must re-apply to enter the civil aviation system. They must go through the entry process again, just as if they were a new entrant into the system.

The risk rating of an operator determines the degree of surveillance and monitoring attention we will give it.

Factors such as changes in key staff members, the type or number of aircraft, or the type of operation being conducted by an organisation can affect its risk rating. When a factor changes, our systems will trigger an alert that the change must be reviewed. Our managers will then determine whether operator’s overall risk rating has been affected.

Our analysis of wider safety trends can also affect risk ratings. Operators with good safety practices and a good safety record may be subject to fewer audits and reduced monitoring by our people.

Aircraft and personnel

Individual licence holders, such as pilots, aircraft engineers, and air traffic controllers are also checked regularly.

Pilots must regularly demonstrate their flying skills and knowledge of the Civil Aviation Rules to a CAA-approved flight examiner. They must also demonstrate that they meet the required medical standard through regular assessment by medical practitioners and specialists.

Aircraft may be repaired only under the authority of a licensed aircraft engineer, and only authorised parts may be used.

Any aircraft that is new to New Zealand, or manufactured here, must undergo strict safety assessments before it may be flown.

Learning from accidents and incidents

We investigate some accidents to learn what happened, how it happened, and how to prevent it happening again. We also analyse the information in reports about accidents and other events to identify any trends. Being able to identify a trend means that means money, time, and people can be directed to where they are needed most.

We support civil aviation participants with aviation safety education publications, courses, seminars and advice. Our safety education activity is focussed on areas of greatest safety concern. The aim is to influence attitudes, change behaviour, and encourage aviation participants to operate well above the safety minimums.


New Zealand is part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO is part of the United Nations and is based in Montreal. Its members work together to improve international aviation safety and efficiency.

The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (that’s us, the CAA) has strong links with similar authorities in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. It also provides aviation assistance and advice to countries such as Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

New Zealand has a reputation for modern aviation legislation and rules. Its safety system and certification practices are recognises in bilateral agreements with other ICAO members.

Other New Zealand aviation organisations

Air traffic control is managed by Airways(external link).

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission(external link) (TAIC) investigates accidents with significant implications for transport safety.