Southland crash victim remembered for his big heart

Jeff Weake, left, and Trevor Barrett on one of their flights north from the South Island. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
Jeff Weake, left, and Trevor Barrett on one of their flights north from the South Island. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald

A pioneer of microlight aviation in New Zealand is being remembered for his big heart and passion following a fatal crash at the weekend.

Trevor Barrett (71), died after his microlight aircraft crashed during a flight from Alexandra to Invercargill on Saturday.

His death has shaken the aviation community, friends and family. Barrett leaves behind his wife Lyn, son James and daughter Anna.

Close family friends Laurie and Jeff Weake told the Herald Barrett's death still seemed like a bad dream, but that Barrett had achieved a lot in his lifetime.

Laurie Weake said Barrett was one of the first aviators of microlight aircraft in New Zealand in the early 80s.

"Sometime around 1982 Trevor and Ken Asplin bought in two microlights and they were assembled at Te Kowhai airfield.

"This was back before there was any regulation, and he and Ken largely started off the movement which is now the Recreational Aircraft Association of New Zealand (RAANZ).

"After that they became Mirage aircraft agents and sold roughly forty of those before they started importing Thruster aircraft from Australia," he said.

Laurie Weake joined the association a couple of years after Barrett and their families became lifelong friends.

Jeff Weake, Laurie's son, said although he and Barrett were decades apart in age, they were like "wing mates".

"If you have watched Top Gun, he was my Goose," he said.

"I myself naturally started flying because my father was a senior instructor for microlight flying – so it was inevitable.

Trevor Barrett, left, and Jeff Weake. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald
Trevor Barrett, left, and Jeff Weake. Photo: Supplied via NZ Herald

"Once I was flying solo, Trevor and I did more and more together. We spent a lot of time in his aircraft doing cross-country flights and general flying all over New Zealand."

Jeff Weake remembered Barrett as a larger-than-life, kind-hearted, and passionate man - with a love of speed and adrenaline.

"He was all about sharing his passion for flying with the community," he said.

"If anyone showed any interest in aviation or flying, that was it - he loved you and adored you. He would invite all sorts of people to go flying."

Weake said Barrett flew hang-gliders back in the early eighties, but then found a passion for first-generation microlights.

By the mid-nineties he started flying third-generation microlights, which are fully enclosed, retractable aircraft – the "Rolls-Royce of microlight aircraft".

"Any excuse that he didn't need to travel somewhere by car, he would fly there," he said.

Weake also described Barrett as the centre of the party, larger-than-life, and as having a unique presence.

"If you heard that voice you knew it was him because of the energy and passion. It was pretty contagious," he said.

"The registration of his aircraft was ZK-TNB, Tango November Bravo, so a lot of us called him Tango. Even in the dancing sense it pictured who he was – a bouncy, bubbly person.

"He was like an energetic fox terrier – always saying 'let's get into it'," he said.

Barrett and his wife Lyn lived in Hamilton for many years where they were owner/ operators of Barrett Pharmacy in Dinsdale.

A number of years ago they sold the business and moved to Pāuanui.

Barrett had since purchased an air conditioning company, which has offices in Hamilton and Tauranga.

He was also a member of the Waikato Microlight Club and a life-member of the Recreational Aircraft Association of New Zealand.

Weake said in the days before his death, Barrett flew from Pāuanui to Rangiora in Canterbury, to the ALPI Aviation NZ base.

"He was getting some items serviced but was due to fly back North for the weekend," Weake said.

"He actually rang me on Friday night, so the night prior to the crash. He said 'Jeff I've just had the most amazing time down here and this weather is just unbelievable'.

"He'd decided to fly from Rangiora to Alexandra to meet a group of aviators that had similar aircraft and were doing a trip to Stewart Island.

"He was always fascinated in flying over Stewart Island and seeing how idyllic it is," he said.

"They got up in the morning and were due to fly from Alexandra to just west of Invercargill. I believe Trevor was the last one to leave Alexandra and obviously something has happened.

"He had been in communication with both parties moments before, and then something has happened and authorities were alerted."

Barrett was flying with the group of other microlights when he became separated from them.

Police were advised around 12.45pm and Southern Lakes Helicopter and Te Anau Police Search and Rescue reached the plane around 4.15pm, which was in the Taringatura Forest.

Barrett, who was the only person aboard, was found dead at the scene. His body has since been recovered.

Laurie Weake said in one word his friends death was "s**t".

"He was doing what he enjoyed doing but it still sucks," he said.

Jeff Weake said Barrett touched so many people's lives and loved so many people.

"He will be dearly missed," he said.

Add a Comment