The death of a respected Queenstown pilot has shocked the local aviation community.
Julian Dean Kramer, 52, from Arrowtown, died in a helicopter crash near Wanaka last night.
Kramer, who was trans-gender, is also known locally as Julianne.
Kramer was flying a Robinson 22 belonging to a friend during a private flight over the Criffel Range, between Wanaka and Cardrona at 8.30pm.
An eyewitness, a local farmer, reported the helicopter dropped suddenly out of the sky after its motor appeared to stop.
Kramer was the highly-respected and experienced chief flying instructor at the Wakatipu Aero Club. With more than 9000 hours’ flying time, he also carried out CAA regulatory responsibilities for the club’s commercial operations, Air Wakatipu.
Wakatipu Aero Club president Adrian Snow says the local aviation community is shocked by the news.
“It’s a tragic accident, no one was expecting that. Our first thoughts are with the family. The aero club’s obviously been hit very hard by this news and we’re all very saddened,” Snow says.
“Julian held senior positions in the aviation world. He’ll be missed. There’s a big gap in experience now.”
Kramer and a friend had flown from Queenstown to Wanaka Airport to pick up a light aircraft. Both returned via the Cardrona Valley. The friend flying the light plane was unaware of the incident till he arrived back at Queenstown.
Wanaka police search and rescue coordinator, sergeant Aaron Nicholson says Civil Aviation Authority staff are on their way to assess the wreckage, which is still on site.
There was no fire as a result of the crash but “there was the potential for fire”, Nicholson says.