Two pilots killed when their small plane clipped wings with another aircraft were remembered Thursday as serious, safety-minded aviators who were well-experienced in the demanding skills of formation flying.

Langley pilot Donn Hubble, 60, and Patrick Lobsinger, 70, died Wednesday after the single-engine Cessna they were in touched another plane during a flight east of Vancouver, sending the aircraft into a frigid slough below. The second aircraft landed safely in a nearby farmer's field.

They were among four small planes in the close confines of a formation flight.

Hubble and Lobsinger were both active in the local flying community and had been involved in formation flying for years, said friend and fellow pilot Harry Pride.

Pride, an 85-year-old who's been flying himself for more than 60 years, said the pair were members of the Boundary Bay Flying Club and a formation group called Delta Flight.

"Donn was our formation leader. He's a very serious, safety-minded person," said Pride, also a member of both groups.

"He organizes our ground instruction and our practice flights. Pat was a teacher and a pilot."

Hubble is the registered co-owner of a 1967 Cessna 150G. A photo on the Boundary Bay Flying Club website shows Hubble leaning against his white and blue Cessna on an airport tarmac.

The planes involved in Wednesday's fatal flight were likely practising at the time, said Pride.

Pride explained formation flying is a specialized skill that few pilots take up, but he said Hubble and Lobsinger -- along with the entire group of pilots they flew with -- have always taken safety very seriously.

"It's very demanding, you have to really be experienced and know what you're doing with an airplane," said Pride, who also participates in formation flying.

"And it's like a team. As you go along, you feel really good if you do a good job and everything works out well."

Pride said the fatal crash has been "devastating" for the area's tight-knit flying community. It's already prompted him to take a break from formation flying, at least for the time being.

"We're all very sad, this is terrible, because these were awfully nice guys and we knew them well," he said.

"Just for our wives' sake, I told my fellow (co-pilot) that we'll just back off for a while, let things settle down. Whether we'll go back, it's hard to say out of respect to our wives and families."

Meanwhile, aviation investigators were examining the wreckage of the downed Cessna on Thursday.

Sgt. Mariam Dickson of the RCMP said the Transportation Safety Board planned to use a helicopter to lift the downed aircraft out of the water so they could transport it to a local fire hall.

A witness who was the first to arrive at the crash site, Clayton Kummel, has described watching two planes spiralling toward the ground.

Kummel said he waded through icy water to reach the Cessna, and found both men unconscious. The passenger was completely submerged when he arrived, while the pilot's head was above water, although he had a large cut.

One of the men died at the scene. The other was airlifted to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.