Flying farewell for Wanaka helicopter pilot Nick Wallis

Experienced helicopter pilot Nick Wallis has been farewelled at his funeral attended by more than a thousand people at Wanaka Airport today.

The State Highway out of the town was under traffic control to cater for the guests.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult were among those in attendance.

The 38-year-old was one of three victims, when the Hughes 500 helicopter he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff last Thursday.

Flying farewell for Wanaka helicopter pilot Nick Wallis
Photo credit: Newshub

The journey was supposed to take them from Wanaka to Haast where they were due to meet a Newshub crew to shoot a story about the beginning of the tahr cull.

Two Department of Conservation senior rangers were the other passengers onboard.

Paul Hondelink, 63, has been described by Director General Lou Sanson as one of DoC's most experienced staff bringing more than 47 years to the job.

He'd just moved to Twizel to help get the tahr cull operation up and running.

Scott Theobald, 59, was also very experienced, with more than 40 years in conservation under his belt and was described as a pioneer in introducing predator dogs to operations.

His expertise was so sought after, he worked with Japan's Conservation Programme to help control the nation's mongoose numbers.

Paul Hondelink, Nick Wallis and Scott Theobald.
Paul Hondelink, Nick Wallis and Scott Theobald. Photo credit: Supplied

Nick's older brother, Jonathan, described him as being "larger than life" in the literal term, pointing out the Director and General Manager of Alpine Helicopters was six foot six and weighed 120kgs.

"He genuinely loved what he did but that doesn't make it any easier," he told media following the crash.

It's the second tragedy in less than three months for the Wallis family.

Older brother Matthew Wallis was killed when his helicopter plunged into Lake Wanaka in July on a routine flight delivering supplies. He was the only person on board.

Matthew Wallis.
Matthew Wallis. Photo credit: Supplied

His funeral was also held at the Wanaka Airport hangar.

The Wallis' are determined to keep flying, the other surviving brother Toby says it's in their blood and they've been flying since the 1960s.

It's not known what caused either crash and investigations by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission are still ongoing.

A service for Paul Hondelink will be held at the Wanaka Airport hangar on Sunday.

Scott Theobald will be farewelled at a private funeral at Glentanner Holiday Park near Twizel on Wednesday.

Nick Wallis’ coffin, along with the ashes of his older brother Matthew, will be flown around the skies of Wanaka one last time by the surviving brothers, Jonathan and Toby, in a Hughes 500 helicopter, the same model involved in the crash, at the conclusion of the service.


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