Brant Campioni had wanted to fly airplanes for as long as anyone can remember. He'd go anywhere for the chance to get into a cockpit.
When he was offered a job flying DHL cargo planes out of Bahrain, he jumped at the opportunity to accumulate flying hours. He was co-piloting one of the delivery service's Boeing 757s when it collided mid-air with a Russian passenger jet Monday night over Germany.
All 69 people on the passenger jet were killed, as were Mr. Campioni, the first officer, and his captain, Paul Phillips of Liverpool, England. They were the only two people aboard the cargo jet.
"He loved flying," Mr. Campioni's younger sister, Carey-Lynn Campioni, 31, said yesterday as relatives and friends gathered at his mother's North Vancouver home to grieve. "He said if he ever died in a plane crash, we should know that he died doing what he loved."
Mr. Campioni, 35, who grew up in Vancouver, was to marry his fiancée next spring in a wedding planned for her hometown of Fort St. John, B.C., Ms. Campioni said. The couple were living in Bahrain. Mr. Campioni's older brother and mother were to fly there last night to pack up the pilot's belongings.
Other relatives said he was a fun-loving young man who wrung the most out of each day.
"He was always full of laughs," Ms. Campioni said. "He was the type of guy who lived life to the fullest."
Yesterday, she said she had a mental picture of him playing the guitar in front of the fireplace.
He also scuba dived, water-skied, was a firefighter in Alberta for a time, and travelled the world.
Once overseas, he and his fiancée, a physiotherapist at a Bahrain hotel, took cruises in the Mediterranean. "He was very engaged in life," said his friend Thomas Bourns of Vancouver. "He was one of the happiest guys I've ever met. He was hardworking too.
"This is very hard. To see his name on the news is surreal."
Mr. Campioni's aunt said her nephew enjoyed the life of the expatriate Canadian. "He lived in a beautiful big house with a pool," Anna Campioni said in a telephone interview from Coboconk, Ont.
Ms. Campioni said her nephew was a comfort to his mother while his stepfather was dying of cancer last year. After the death, his mother stayed with her son in Bahrain for five months.
Whenever relatives from Europe came to visit Canada, Mr. Campioni gave them an aerial tour of the Lower Mainland of B.C.
Mr. Campioni joined DHL Aviation in December, 1999, and had more than 5,000 hours of flying experience, said Axel Geitz, director of corporate affairs at DHL in Brussels.