Respected Arrowtown pilot was 'great mentor'

Click to enlarge. ODT graphic
Click to enlarge. ODT graphic

The Arrowtown pilot killed in a helicopter crash on the Criffel Range, near Wanaka, on Thursday night was a respected and experienced aviator and an instructor to generations of pilots.

Julian Dean Kramer (52), of Arrowtown, was also known as Julianne, or "JK".

He was the Wakatipu Aero Club's chief flying instructor and trained at the Frankton club and in Dunedin.

Club president and pilot Adrian Snow said yesterday Mr Kramer was flying solo in a privately owned Robinson R22 helicopter on a private flight.

Mr Kramer had taken the opportunity to ferry the aircraft back to Queenstown from Wanaka but tragedy struck at 8.40pm, about halfway through the flight, despite perfect flying conditions.

It was the fifth fatal incident involving a two-seater Robinson R22 helicopter in the lower South Island in four years.

Robinson R22s have been involved in more than 30 crashes - in which nine people have been killed - in New Zealand during the past eight years.

"Obviously, it is a big loss for the club and everyone is deeply saddened by what has happened and our thoughts are with the family," Mr Snow said.

Mr Kramer had more than 30 years' flying experience and logged 9000 hours as a pilot. He developed a nationally recognised skill-set in mountain flying training based on the Wakatipu and Fiordland, Mr Snow said.

"He's trained many of the commercial fixed-wing pilots who operate in and out of Milford today. He used to have students travel the length of the country to train with him and a few had come from overseas and he even had regular visits from some of the flying schools in Auckland spend time under his guidance."

Helicopter company Over the Top chief executive and chief pilot Louisa Patterson, of Queenstown, said yesterday Mr Kramer was a friend and aviation colleague for decades. He was "a great mentor and well-respected aviator, enthusiastic and passionate about aviation".

His "cheerful voice and experience will be missed in the skies over Queenstown and Milford Sound, because that experience is important to pass on to young people coming into the industry".

"That mentoring will be a huge gap in the aero club and with new and young aviators in the area."

Mr Snow said flying was Mr Kramer's passion. The Queenstown-born and raised pilot began his flying career in the early 1980s in a home-built aircraft, then moved on to microlights, hang-gliders and sail planes.

He started training at the Wakatipu Aero Club, of which his father Henry Kramer was a founding member and past president, and completed it at the Otago Aero Club in Dunedin.

Mr Kramer earned his commercial pilot's licence and instructor rating after returning to Queenstown in the early 1990s, and worked part-time for flightseeing operators. He also did glider towing and parachute drops.

He rose to be chief pilot for Air Fiordland until he returned to the Wakatipu club as operations manager, then chief flying instructor.

Mr Kramer gained his helicopter pilot's licence at Wanaka Helicopters during the past few years and flew choppers whenever time or money allowed, Mr Snow said.

Mr Snow spoke to Mr Kramer in the club rooms on the morning of the day of the crash. "He was in fine fettle, as normal, champing at the bit to go flying."

Mr Kramer is survived by his parents, Henry and Lyn Kramer, of Frankton, and brother Mark, of Arrowtown.




Add a Comment