A heavenly send-off for popular Wakatipu pilot

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Popular Queenstown pilot Bruce Campbell was honoured with a fly-over at his funeral in Frankton yesterday. 

Bruce, who died last week at 60, flew an accident-free 12,000 hours over 42 years. 

Friends recall his passion for flying. 

“If he had to fly for nothing, he would have,” partner Rose Kleiss tells Mountain Scene. 

“When I first met Bruce, other guys said, ‘we wish you luck, Rose, the only thing Bruce can tie down are the wings of an aeroplane’.” 

Unusually, he only flew light aircraft. 

Kleiss: “He was a bush pilot. 

“He got accredited to fly ATRs but he hated big cities – he wanted to be a hands-on pilot. 

“He was just very highly respected because he never took risks – even when he was off-duty, pilots used to phone him to ask, ‘what should we do weather-wise?’” 

He was “oh so modest”, Kleiss says. 

“He just used to say he worked at the airport – or his fancy one was, ‘I’m a glorified elevator operator’”. 

He was a highly-experienced Pilatus Porter pilot, landing them on snow at Mount Cook, and in the desert when working for an oil company in Algeria, Libya and Angola. 

Bruce regularly flew the Queenstown-Milford tourist route but also dropped in supplies on the Milford Track and piloted parachute-drop and glider-towing craft. 

His last employer, Air Milford owner Hank Sproull, recalls “a gentle bloke”. 

“I never really saw him fazed, he was always very calm and collected. 

“He was passionate about helping young pilots.” 

Bruce’s family has started a trainee pilots’ trust in his memory.