Family of helicopter crash victim pay tribute to man who 'took every opportunity to be in the sky'

Reefton pilot Noel 'Grumbles' Wilson always had a love of flying and the outdoors, his sister says.
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Reefton pilot Noel 'Grumbles' Wilson always had a love of flying and the outdoors, his sister says.

The family of a helicopter pilot killed in a crash near Reefton say he was a "West Coaster through and through". 

Noel Edward Wilson, known as Grumbles, died when his helicopter crashed near the top of a hill just on the edge of bush about 9 kilometres northeast of Reefton on Monday. 

His sister, Carol Wilson, said the 52-year-old's death had sent ripples through the small community of Reefton. 

Wilson was passionate about flying and took joy in teaching others.
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Wilson was passionate about flying and took joy in teaching others.

"[He was] a West Coaster through and through," she said.

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"He grew up with a love of flying and outdoor life and followed his childhood dream of being a pilot. He flew everything from microlights, gyrocopters and fixed wing to helicopters.

A distress beacon was sent from Noel Edward Wilson's helicopter before he crashed near Reefton.
TRANSPORT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION COMMISSION

A distress beacon was sent from Noel Edward Wilson's helicopter before he crashed near Reefton.

"He expanded this passion by teaching others how to fly. Noel was an experienced pilot and took every opportunity to be in the sky."

Wilson is survived by his son Travis, partner Lynda van Barneveld​, parents Noel and Doreen, sisters Suzanne and Carol, and nephews Ky, Raine, Cobi and Tarn.

"The family would like to pass on their thanks to family and friends for their support during this time," she said. 

Noel Edward Wilson, 52, died on Monday after crashing his helicopter near Reefton.
DAWSON BLISS

Noel Edward Wilson, 52, died on Monday after crashing his helicopter near Reefton.

His funeral will be held in Reefton on Saturday. 

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A Rescue Coordination Centre spokeswoman said they received a distress beacon at 6.45pm on Monday.

Searchers found Wilson, the sole occupant, dead when they arrived.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) opened an inquiry into the circumstances of the crash on Tuesday.

A spokesman said two investigators were still at the crash site collecting evidence on Friday, but the wreckage was lifted by helicopter from the crash site late Thursday. 

"It has since been loaded on to a truck and is expected to arrive at the commission's technical facility in Wellington [Friday] afternoon for further study," he said. 

It was too early to say what caused the crash.

The crash is one of four involving Robinson helicopters that are under investigation by the commission. 

There have been 14 crashes, killing 18 people, involving Robinson helicopters since 1996. 

The TAIC put Robinson helicopters on its watchlist in October after concerns about the number of crashes involving "mast bumping". It was also concerned about the risks of flying Robinson helicopters in mountainous terrain and difficult weather conditions.

Mast bumping refers to contact between an inner part of a main rotor blade and the main rotor drive shaft. Mast bumping usually results in the helicopter breaking up in flight, which is fatal for those on board. 

The TAIC recommended all pilots receive proper training in the causes, dangers, and prevention of mast bumping.

The Department of Conservation suspended its use of Robinson helicopters in November "to protect staff, volunteers, and contractors".

There are about 300 Robinsons registered in New Zealand.

 - Stuff

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