TRAGIC pilot Niall Doherty waved to his father from the cockpit shortly before crashing to his death.
His sister Eadaoin revealed her brother's final farewell to his family in a moving tribute to her big brother at his funeral in Dunkerrin, Co Offaly.
The 31-year-old flight instructor was killed along with trainee pilot Damien Deegan (also 31) when their light aircraft crashed outside Birr on Sunday.
Eadaoin told the congregation: "Every Sunday, when flying, he would make it his business to fly over the house and farm to see what dad was doing, to give him a wave and to make sure that he was okay, just as he did last Sunday."
Mr Doherty grew up in Co Tipperary and dated Saturdays singer Una Healy when the pair were still in school. She released a statement expressing her shock and sadness at his death.
Mourners began gathering at Dunkerrin Church from 10.30am for the midday funeral Mass. By noon, the small village was overflowing with parked cars as hundreds gathered to bid farewell to the popular pilot.
Eadaoin described her brother as the golden child.
"Parents dream of having the perfect son. One who loves, shows responsibility, does without asking, is humble, thoughtful and one who can have fun too, Niall epitomised this," she said.
"My brother would not want us to be overwhelmed with sadness. He was a strong and positive person and would always look for the best in any situation, and would tell us to just, get on with it. He would want us to do the same," she added.
She urged those assembled to "make sure that we celebrate his life and his memory lives on with all of us as long as we live".
Acknowledging the sense of shock and sadness at Niall's passing, Fr Lorcan Kenny praised the community for their support. "The whole community has come here," he added.
Among the gifts presented to symbolise Niall's passions in life were a model plane, a family portrait, a missal, a scout uniform, rugby ball and jersey, a book on Lar Corbett, a Celtic flag and scarf, a passport and a cookbook.
"God has a new pilot, he had his wings here on Earth and he earned them, now he has them in heaven, so rest well Niall," said Fr Kenny.
The Ormand Flying Club provided an aerial salute as Niall was laid to rest in the Dunkerrin New Cemetery.