A Kiwi Warbirds and vintage pilot has been killed in Latvia after a plane he was flying crashed shortly after attending an air show.

Wayne Edwards of Puni, south of Auckland, was visiting a friend in Sweden, when they and another friend flew across the Baltic Sea to Latvia for an air show.

While they were returning to Sweden on Sunday night (NZ time), the three friends flying in separate planes, Edwards ran into trouble.

Speaking on behalf of the family, good friend John Baynes said the details about the crash were "sketchy" but it appeared there was a problem in Edwards' aircraft, a Bucker Jungmeister German WWII trainer.

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He had to make a forced landing, but things "went wrong", said Baynes, a fellow aviation enthusiast.

The friends in Latvia phoned the news back to New Zealand immediately.

"It came as a huge shock," Baynes said.

Edwards, 50, is survived by his wife and two children.

"It has been a terrible tragedy, nobody believed it could happen," Baynes said.

"We all have the greatest respect for everything about him. The New Zealand aviation scene has lost a great mate."

Edwards' father Ace Edwards joined the Air Force when he was 16, and was a flight engineer for many years with Air New Zealand. Alistair Edwards still flies his Harvard aircraft regularly.

"Flying was in Wayne's blood," Baynes said.

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Edwards owned a 1942 Tiger Moth, an ex-WWII training aircraft.

"He operated that for many years and has flown the length and breadth of New Zealand many times," Baynes said.

"He even flew over the top of Mt Cook - quite special in an open cockpit.

"To manage aircraft operation requires wide understanding of the engineering and flying side. Wayne had it all."

Edwards was a longstanding committee member and supporter of the New Zealand Tiger Moth Club.

He was also passionate about passing on his knowledge to the younger generations.

"He was selfless in giving his time to anybody he felt could benefit from it, young people in particular. He would take them up for a flight and teach them about aircraft."

He was a passionate member of the Warbirds scene in Auckland and took part in commemorative flights.

He recently sold his East Tamaki skylight business, giving him more time to pursue his love of aviation around the world.

"He enjoyed his overseas experiences," Baynes said.

"He spent time with friends in the Baltics flying different types of aircraft.

"He's just a good bugger, really well-liked, much respected for his flying ability, a great mentor, and a big part of the aviation community,"

His next big adventure was to bring a Puss Moth from Sweden to Australia and fly it around the country, and possibly across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand.

A New Zealand friend who had been travelling with him was taking care of arrangements in Latvia, while his family here was on route, Baynes said.

His body would be repatriated to New Zealand.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the family were being provided consular assistance.