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Tributes paid to White Waltham-based pilot who died in weekend crash

Tributes have been paid to a talented pilot who died when an aircraft crashed in a field on Saturday afternoon.

Emily Collett, 36, who flew out of White Waltham Airfield, was killed alongside one other occupant, Tom Castle, when the small biplane they were in came down near Stonor in Oxfordshire.

A talented and popular pilot, Mrs Collett ran aerobatic training and experiences out of Ultimate Aerobatics, based at the airfield in Waltham Road with her husband Mike.

She had won a number of accolades for her prowess in the skies and was part of the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA) for several years. The association is based at the airfield.

BWPA chairwoman Julie Westhorp said Emily’s death was a ‘tragic loss… to her family, friends and the aviation community’.

Mrs Collett took off from White Waltham with Mr Castle, who she was taking on a training flight. The plane, a Pitts S-2A, came down at about 2pm on Saturday.

Air investigators are now examining the wreckage for clues to the cause of the crash.

Ms Westhorp said: “Emily was an extremely talented pilot, as her achievements demonstrate, but she was also an excellent role model to many young people and women, always willing to share her enthusiasm for aviation.”

“She was an active member of the BWPA for several years, giving her time freely when her busy schedule allowed to encourage and inspire other females to share her love of flying,” said Ms Westhorp.

“Emily was more than a talented pilot. She was a lovely, friendly girl, always approachable with a ready smile. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her and whose lives she touched. 

“Our condolences go to her family, especially her husband Mike.”

A spokesman from British Aerobatics, the governing body for sport aerobatics, said: “A caring and considerate nature, Emily’s generosity in sharing her knowledge and time to help others was well known in the aerobatic community and beyond, helping many pilots achieve their goals.

“Emily will be sadly missed by all who knew her and our thoughts are with her family and friends who have lost a wonderful daughter, wife and friend.”

According to the Ultimate Aerobatics website, Mrs Collett started flying in 2001 and has worked as a gliding instructor and a tow pilot and began flying in aerobatic competitions in 2007.

She has participated in air display flying and instructing, taking part in the Advanced European Aerobatics Championships twice, and in 2016 was crowned British Advanced National Champion.

Last year, she became the first female member of the Great War Display Team.

She taught former Countdown co-host Carol Vorderman the loop-the-loop manoeuvre for BBC’s The One Show in 2017.

The celebrity tweeted: “Such a terrible terrible loss... Emily was an extraordinary young woman and pilot and my time with her in the air was nothing but a joy.

“My heart goes out to her husband Mike, to Emily’s family and to Tom Castle’s family in their grief. Rest in peace.”

Tom Castle worked at Classic Sport Engineering in Sywell, Northamptonshire. He was 30 when he died, and lived in Sibertoft in Leicestershire.

He was a qualified pilot with more than 200 hours of experience.

An Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) spokeswoman said investigators travelled to the crash site and started a field investigation.

She said: “The aircraft wreckage will be recovered to the AAIB's facility at Farnborough for more detailed examination. The AAIB investigation will take some time and an accident report will be released in due course.”

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