Friends and colleagues of respected Wakatipu Aero Club chief pilot and instructor Julian Kramer were shocked and saddened to learn the experienced pilot had been killed in a helicopter crash between Wanaka and Queenstown on Thursday night.
Wakatipu Aero Club president Adrian Snow said the loss of Julian Kramer, also known as Julianne, would leave a big gap in the club as well as the industry nationwide.
"It's very sad. It's a big loss for the club . . . our biggest sympathies obviously go out to the family."
The pilot's family requested he be remembered as a man, though he lived as a woman.
Police initially identified the victim of the smash as a woman, but later, at the request of the family, released his official name as Julian.
Kramer ran Air Wakatipu, the commercial division of the Wakatipu Aero Club, and was also chief pilot and instructor for the club.
"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 the world to fly in the mountains with Kramer because of his very 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."
With almost 9000 hours flying light aircraft, Kramer was an experienced pilot and his death has shocked friends and colleagues, he said.
"Flying was his complete passion.
"There was nothing else in life for Julian except for aviation."
Born and raised in Queenstown, Kramer was introduced to flying as a youngster and had more than 30 years of flying experience.
"His father Henry was a founding member and is a past president of the Wakatipu Aero Club . . . he learned to fly in a home-built aircraft and went on to fly hang-gliders, light aircraft, helicopters and gliders," Snow said.
Fellow pilot and owner of the helicopter, Andrew Fairfax, was waiting at Queenstown Airport for his close friend to return when he learnt of the tragedy.
"It is extraordinarily sad, especially for the family."
"JK was an exceptionally thorough, experienced, capable and professional pilot . . . one of the best."
The pair had earlier travelled to Wanaka to collect a fixed-wing aircraft which Fairfax flew back to Queenstown.
- Fairfax Media