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Former Defence Chief passes away in Wellington

Former Chief of Defence Staff (now Chief of Defence Force) Air Marshal (Retired) David Crooks CB OBE passed away in Wellington on Wednesday, aged 90.

11 March, 2022

Air Marshal Crooks joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in 1951 and, after qualifying as a pilot, held a variety of operational and training postings and senior roles in the Air Force and the broader Defence Force until his appointment as Deputy Chief of Air Staff in 1980.

He went on to become Chief of Air Staff in 1983, and became Chief of Defence Staff in 1986, before retiring in late 1987. AM Crooks was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1985 for distinguished services to the RNZAF.

In retirement Air Marshal Crooks was active in many voluntary organisations, including serving on the board of the Air Force Museum Trust.

Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Kevin Short, said he was saddened to hear of the passing of Air Marshal Crooks.

“As a young officer in the RNZAF when Air Marshal Crooks was first Chief of Air Staff and then Chief of the Defence Staff, I did come across him and found him to be a wonderful speaker and intelligent leader who understood the importance of air power. I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Air Marshal Crooks.” 

Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Clark, said that during Air Marshal Crooks’ long service he had played an important part in the Air Force’s history.

“This year the Air Force celebrates its 85th anniversary. When Air Marshal Crooks joined the organisation was still young, and over the next 37 years he made a significant contribution to its evolution and development, through times of both conflict and peace. 

“He was one of those who led the way and set an example to all, as a wise and highly respected airman and leader,” he said. 

“On behalf of everyone in the Air Force, I extend my deepest sympathies to Air Marshal Crooks’ family.”

The military funeral for Air Marshal Crooks on Wednesday 16 March at 11am will be live-streamed by Harbour City Funerals. The link will be through their website An online Condolence Book will also be available.