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Bo Nilsson died when the Baby Great Lakes microlight he was flying crashed in a paddock near Twizel-Omarama Rd at 10.46am on Monday.
Gavin Willis, who operated Glide Omarama for more than two decades, worked with Mr Nilsson for much of that.
Paying tribute to his friend yesterday, he said he was highly regarded as a gliding instructor.
Mr Nilsson lived in Omarama for 20 years, and had been a gliding instructor for all of that time.
‘‘He was an A category gliding instructor, which is as good as you get.’’
He would work New Zealand summers in Omarama and Northern Hemisphere summers in Wales.
From Sweden originally, he left the country in his twenties and worked on cargo boats and travelled the world.
He later settled in New Zealand, learning to fly gliders in Wellington, where he owned restaurants.
After selling his businesses, he became a full-time gliding instructor.
His wife had passed away, and he was survived by a daughter in Auckland and son in Greece.
Omarama Airfield chairman Clive Geddes said the pilot had taken off from the airfield on a solo flight on Monday morning.
He was a very experienced glider and microlight pilot, Mr Geddes said.
‘‘[He was] a guy who was very widely respected for his abilities and for his ability to help other people.’’
Police confirmed the man had been the sole occupant of the plane and said he was found dead at the scene.
Mr Geddes said there had been ‘‘nothing exceptional’’ in the weather conditions at the airfield.
A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman said investigators would examine the crash scene and interview first responders and other witnesses.
Members of the public who witnessed the crash were encouraged to contact CAA, the spokesman said.
Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher said the event was tragic and he had called to check in on acquaintances who flew when he heard the news.
There were a lot of people involved in aviation in the area, and the crash would affect a wide section of the community, he said.