THE death of an experienced pilot and her student who crashed during a lesson has been ruled an accident, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard.

Aerobatic flying ace Emily Collett, 35, was flying with student Thomas Castle, 30, when their blue-and-yellow biplane crashed near the B480, between Stonor and Middle Assendon on August 24, 2019.

The pair took off from White Waltham airfield, near Maidenhead, on the morning of August 24 at about 12.55pm.

READ MORE: Experienced pilot may have suffered heart attack before crash

About 10 minutes later, the plane came crashing down about eight miles away. Eyewitnesses described seeing the two-winged aircraft ‘nosedive out of the sky’.

The married instructor was in the front seat of the plane. Mr Castle, who was an aircraft engineer, was in the back seat. 

A jury ruled concluded (13) after a three-day inquest that the pair died at the scene from “multiple injuries” as a result of an accident.  

On the record of inquest, senior coroner Darren Salter said: “During manoeuvres the aircraft entered into a spin which was not recovered from before the plane collided with the ground between Stonor and Middle Assendon at approximately 14:04 British Summer Time.

“[They] died instantly as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.”

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The jury heard Mrs Collett may have suffered a heart attack before the plane crashed but Mr Salter said there was “insufficient evidence” to draw this conclusion.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) found that a conclusive cause for the crash could not be determined. 

However, they said it was likely Mrs Collett had become "incapacitated during a spin" and that Mr Castle was "unable to recover the aircraft in time". 

It said: "It is possible that the commander could have suffered a significant alteration of cardiac output, sufficient to prevent further control of the aircraft.

"In this eventuality it would be likely that the commander would have collapsed with little or no warning."

Mrs Collett was known for teaching Carol Vorderman to fly on The One Show in 2017. In the wake of the tragedy, Ms Vorderman, who was taught to loop-the-loop for the TV programme, said: "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.”

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The experienced pilot ran the aerobatics company Ultimate Aerobatics with her husband, Mike, from White Waltham Airfield, near Maidenhead, Berkshire.

The company offered aerobatics scholarships, which was how Mr Castle came to be taught by Mrs Collett to prepare him to compete in sports level aerobatic competitions. 


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This story was written by Gee Harland, she joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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