Rolim Adolfo Amaro, 59, president of Brazil's TAM airlines, died Sunday when the helicopter he was piloting crashed near the border with Paraguay.
Also killed in the crash was Patricia Santos Silva, 30, who worked in a management position with the airline.
Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso issued a statement, calling Amaro "a friend," and lamenting his death.
"Rolim was a pioneer," Cardoso said. "He was a man who succeeded on his own initiative."
Well known in Brazilian business circles for building TAM from a small regional carrier into Brazil's second-largest airline after Varig, Amaro started the airline as an air-taxi company in 1968, with backing from two Brazilian agricultural tycoons.
After buying out his partners in 1976, Amaro made TAM a commercial airline and at the time of his death owned nearly all the voting shares.
Last month, Amaro signed two orders for up to 120 aircraft with a potential value of $3.8 billion at the Paris Air Show.