An international flying student did an "exceptional job" landing unhurt with a dead engine and missing a wheel after a mid-air collision that killed two women near Feilding.

Those in the industry said the 21-year-old survivor - who has not been officially named - showed great skill in bringing the plane on to the Taonui Airfield, about 5km from Feilding, on Monday afternoon.

"I have great admiration for the skill he called on to bring the aircraft down," said Michael Bryant, owner of Flight Training Manawatu.

"You train your people up enough that it's basic instinct and I guess that's what he did there."

Crash investigators were yesterday working to establish what caused the accident that killed chief flying instructor Jessica Neeson, 27, and her student Patricia Smallman, 64.

Their plane crashed into a paddock near the aerodrome.

Laurence Barnett - who owns Bay Flight Centre where Ms Neeson trained in Tauranga - also praised the surviving pilot for keeping a cool head.

"The international student did an exceptional job getting the aircraft back on the ground with no engine and a wheel knocked off."

Mr Barnett said he had been inundated with calls since his former student's death.

"She was such a friendly girl and had done exceptionally well to get to the CFI [chief flying instructor] level. I want answers, too, as everyone does."

Mr Bryant said the surviving trainee pilot - who is weeks away from his commercial pilot's licence test - was "very distressed" and did not want to speak during the accident investigation.

Family of Ms Neeson - who was a driving force for the New Zealand Association of Women in Aviation 50th anniversary rally on Queen's Birthday Weekend - yesterday travelled from Taumarunui as emergency services staff removed the bodies.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigator Ian McClelland said staff were yet to interview five witnesses, including the survivor.

Aunt Bridget Neeson said her niece often talked about her students and understood she and Mrs Smallman had formed quite a tight bond after the older woman took up flying "later in life".

Mrs Smallman's relative Roger Foley said that her husband, Wayne, was devastated at the loss of his "soulmate".

He met his British-born wife while working as a doctor in London and the pair moved to France in 2003.

Mrs Smallman had always wanted to learn to fly, Mr Foley said, but it was too "pricey" in the Northern Hemisphere so she took it up on returning here several years ago. "It was just a challenge, that's just the way she was," he said. "She was a pretty cheeky sort, always prepared to give you a run for your money in an argument."

He said Mrs Smallman began flying over Wellington but had been training in Feilding recently as she had friends there.

With 90 hours of flying under her belt, she was one paper away from qualifying as a pilot.

Mr Foley said Mrs Smallman was the mother of son James - who was flying back from Britain - and Mr Smallman had two children from a previous marriage.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Durie Rd property where Ms Neeson's Cessna crashed said it had been a horrific couple of weeks.

He had known and his daughter worked for dairy farmer Scott Guy, who was found shot dead in his Feilding driveway, a couple of properties over, on July 8.