The victim of a fatal plane crash on Vancouver Island Wednesday morning has been identified as a retired Courtenay man.

Bert Smit built the two-seater Jodel wood aircraft himself, said Smit's friend and business partner Dan Annand.

"He loved to fly. He started flying after he retired," Annand told by phone.

"A lot of people knew Bert. He's been a good guy, a good friend to everybody."

Smit crashed the plane in a densely wooded area about eight kilometres west of Courtenay, fire officials said.

RCMP said the pilot was 75.

Annand said three witnesses saw a wing come off the plane in mid-flight before it crashed into trees.

Smit, a retired freighter captain, felled the tree that he used to build the plane, Annand said. It was a two year labour of love to complete it.

The plane was painted yellow with black and white stripes.

"He worked hard and did everything himself," Annand said.

Whenever the sun was out, Smit would fly his plane from his private airstrip on the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Courtenay Airpark, have breakfast, then fly back, said Annand, the Airpark's director.

Smit's next project was to build a sailboat, he said.