Hawkes Bay and East Coast Aero Club president Bruce Govenlock says the deaths of his friend and a UK pilot in today's plane crash were a "terrible tragedy''.
He said a position beacon, which is activated after an accident notified the club of the downed Tomahawk PA38 about 11am, before emergency services were called and another club aircraft, already airborne, sent to the location of the signal where the wreckage was discovered.
"It was not many minutes from the last radio transfer that we noticed the beacon.
"It doesn't appear there was any chance for a distress call and the last radio transmission indicated there was nothing wrong.''
He said the men killed were an "experienced'' club instructor and a UK visitor preparing for his pilots licence validation exam tomorrow.
The "fully qualified'' UK pilot had been flying the two-seater, single engine plane for about 30 minutes after taking off from Bridge Pa Aerodrome for a training exercise before the crash.
Mr Govenlock understood the weather to be fine for flying and said it was too early to speculate on whether mechanical or engine failure had caused the 30-year-old well maintained aircraft to crash.
A Hastings resident saw a small plane flying overhead, its engine "coughing and spluttering'', before the crash was discovered.
Brent McArthur said he was walking home in Hastings just after 11am when he heard a small aircraft "sounding very odd''.
Mr McArthur was on the corner of St Aubyn St East and Riverslea Road when the aircraft flew over heading west, towards the Bridge Pa Aerodrome.
"It just sounded really odd, you don't hear that sound. It was missing and coughing and spluttering.''
He often saw small aircraft from the aerodrome flying overhead, and said the plane was flying much lower than usual. "It just didn't sound right.''
He assumed the plane was suffering engine trouble and was heading to the aerodrome, about 8km away.
Mr McArthur said after seeing news reports that a tomahawk plane had crashed, he had looked up pictures of the aircraft and believed it was the same type of plane he saw.
However the crash site, in a riverbed near Maraekakaho, is a further 12km past the aerodrome.