Chopper pilot 'passionate' about flying
Friends of Julian Kramer, known as Julianne, say the experienced pilot's death is a "big loss".
Kramer, 52, died in a helicopter crash in the Cardrona Valley about 8.40pm yesterday.
Wakatipu Aero Club president Adrian Snow said the loss of Kramer would leave a big gap in the club and the industry.
Kramer was the club's operations manager and chief flying instructor.
Kramer preferred to live as a woman by the name of Julianne and was widely known as such.
''It's very sad. It's a big loss for the club. Our biggest sympathies obviously go out to the family,'' Snow said.
''He was a very well-respected pilot and a very well-respected instructor. Often very good pilots don't make good instructors, but he did.''
Pilots came from all over New Zealand and the world to fly in the mountains with Kramer, who had developed good mountain-flying and flight-training skills, Snow said.
''That is a big experience gap that will be missed by the club and its members and arguably the rest of New Zealand,'' he said.
With almost 9000 hours flying light aircraft, Kramer was an experienced pilot and his death had shocked friends and colleagues, he said.
''Flying was his complete passion. There was nothing else in life for Julian except aviation. The club is shocked and deeply saddened,'' he said.
Kramer was the sole occupant of the Robinson R22 when it crashed on the Criffel Range, halfway between Wanaka and Queenstown,
It took police about 40 minutes to trek through bush and find the wreckage, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman Mike Richards said.
Two CAA safety investigation officers will visit the site today to inspect the wreckage and determine the cause of the crash.
Because of the location of the wreckage, the inspectors could be lowered in by helicopter, Richards said.
Sergeant Aaron Nicholson, of Wanaka, co-ordinated the search and rescue operation, which involved police, firefighters, St John, LandSAR and two helicopters, from Queenstown and Otago.
Inquiries indicated Kramer and a friend had flown from Queenstown to Wanaka Airport to pick up a light aircraft, and then both returned to Queenstown via the Cardrona Valley, one flying the aircraft the other flying the helicopter.
The other pilot arrived in Queenstown unaware of the crash.
The matter has been referred to the coroner and CAA for further investigation.
Earlier, Richards said the Transport Accident Investigation Commission would not be investigating.
Nicholson said police extended their condolences to Kramer's family and friends.