Three men from the same school on Auckland’s North Shore had a high school reunion when they found themselves on the same military flying training course to become new Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) pilots.

Flying Officer Denzel Williams 24, Flying Officer Aaron Kurte 24, and Flying Officer Tyler Waters 25, all attended Westlake Boys’ High School.  Flying Officers Kurte and Williams were in the same year and played hockey together, while Flying Officer Waters was in the year above them. 

The trio found themselves together on the same pilot’s course in 2019 at RNZAF Base Ohakea, having followed different flight paths after leaving school. 

Last week all three of them graduated alongside six other new pilots. 

Flying Officer Kurte made coffee as a barista while he saved for private flying training and did a bit of travelling, Flying Officer Williams did a few odd jobs for a few years and travelled with Flying Officer Kurte before joining the Air Force, and Flying Officer Waters studied a Bachelor of mechanical engineering at Auckland University, where he graduated with Honours.

All three joined the RNZAF in 2018.

However while they all found themselves on the same course at the same time, there was no preconceived plan.

“We didn’t coordinate it,” said Flying Officer Waters.

“Flying was always something I dreamed about but I joined (the RNZAF) as an engineer originally. Then I decided to change direction,” he said. 

Flying Officer Kurte missed out on his first application into the RNZAF as a pilot so he travelled for a while, learned to fly and then decided to reapply. The second time he was  successful.

“I think the additional maturity helped,” he said.

Flying Officer Williams self-assessed himself as not being ready to join when he left school. He waited for a couple of years and embarked on a computer science course at University at the same time as applying for the RNZAF.

“Then I got the call that I had been accepted and that was it, I was out the door.”

All three said that while the intense course schedule challenged them in many ways with constant pressure to meet the exacting requirements needed to pass, the instructors were an integral part of their success.

“They supported us all through the tough times and really worked hard to help us succeed,” Flying Officer Waters said.

The new pilots graduated a little later than expected due to the COVID-19 lockdown where they were not able to fly for several weeks.

“Coming back in, picking up from where you left off and getting back into the mode of flying was hard, but the instructors were great at getting us all back on track,” Flying Officer Williams said.

The three pilots and their six course mates who graduated will now either be posted to the RNZAF rotary wing fleet and learn to fly the Agusta A109 Light Utility Helicopter or train at No. 42 Squadron on the KA350 King Air.

The helicopter pilots will then go on to fly the NH90 or Seasprite helicopters at No. 3 or No. 6 Squadron respectively, whilst the multi-engine pilots will go on to fly either the Hercules or Boeing 757 at No. 40 Squadron, or the Orion at No. 5 Squadron.

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