A Kiwi helicopter pilot who died while helping fight bush fires in Australia was only a couple of days from coming home.

Allan Tull died on Friday as he water-bombed the 1700ha Mt Kingiman fire west of Ulladulla on the New South Wales South Coast.

The crash happened about 2pm when his chopper's water bucket became tangled in trees, pulling it down.

Close aviation friends and family yesterday paid tribute to him.


Friend and pilot Bernard McQueen described him as a "true gentleman, and a true, great pilot".

"For somebody as safe as Allan, as calculated as he was, as far as pilots go he was someone we all looked up to with his abilities and his skill, and I wouldn't say that about a lot of guys."

Tull's Morrinsville-based son, Joseph, today told the Herald his father was enjoying helping fight the fires.

The pair were close. Not only did Joseph Tull also fly helicopters, he dropped him at the airport for his Australian flight and spoke to him at least once a day while he was there.

"I spoke to him that morning. We'd call each other every day, or twice a day."

If he wasn't in a chopper, he'd be out hunting or fishing, he said.

"He's had a pretty sweet life, really. I still feel boring compared to him and half the time I was with him.

"He loved it. That [flying], fishing and hunting was one of three things he would always do."


He said his Dad was due to get home either tonight or Monday night.

Tull, who lives in Morrinsville, is due to get married in November, something his father was excited about.

"I am devastated that he's gone."

He described his dad as his best friend and someone he would talk to about everything - even when it came to his marriage proposal.

"I asked him how I should do it but he didn't say much ... he was really excited for me."

As for funeral arrangements, they remained in limbo as to setting a date while his father's body is still in Australia.

Sydney Helicopters, where Tull worked, last night said they were mourning the loss of a close friend and colleague.

"Tully had a wealth of aerial firefighting experience and his aviation knowledge and skills were of the highest standard," chief pilot Mark Harrold said in a statement.

"He was regarded as one of the most experienced fire-bombing pilots in the industry."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant also expressed their sympathies.

- Additional reporting Natalie Akoorie.