x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pilots honoured by friends

Tributes continued to come in for the Americans killed in a plane crash on Sunday.

ABU DHABI // "It is surreal … Our family is praying for the families of the other three lost in this horrible accident," wrote Joana Studer, the sister-in-law of Landon Studer, one of the victims of the Al Ain plane crash, on a blog post dedicated to remembering some of the pilots.

The men who died in thecrash of the vintage seaplane on Sunday night, all aviators on a trip that would have taken them to Saudi Arabia, Africa and South America, have been identified as Mr Studer, Joshua Hucklebridge, Chuck Kimes and Tyler Orsow.

Mr Orsow, 25, and Mr Kimes, 61, were seaplane enthusiasts from the western US who were active in the aviation community. Mr Orsow's mother, Terry Campbell, and Mr Kimes helped to organise the largest annual gathering of seaplanes on the American west coast.

"Both of them were really great people," said Walter Windus, the chairman of the board of directors at the Seaplane Pilots Association.

Mr Windus had known Mr Kimes and Mr Orsow for more than a decade.

"They were the most devoted pilots to the seaplane fraternity, and everyone is really hurting right now," he said

The two were in the UAE to pick up the rare McKinnon G21G turboprop plane, which was owned by Triple S Aviation, based in Texas. Mr Studer, 28, was the owner and general manager of Triple S and Mr Hucklebridge, 28, was the international projects manager.

Christi Vitela, Mr Hucklebridge's sister, said her brother will "be missed by many".

"He was a unique and charismatic person. We grew up in Mexico to missionary parents, so we were no strangers to flying," Mrs Vitela said. "He loved it and was doing what he was passionate about: traveling and meeting people."

The trip was to end in Texas next week. Mr Orsow wrote on his Facebook page on February 25 that he was frustrated because officials would not allow the men access to the aircraft. He said did not know the reason.

Emirati and American authorities are continuing to work on the investigation, officials said yesterday. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

jthomas@thenational.ae