Hadleigh: Tributes to air crash pilot

THE family of a man who died in a plane crash in a Suffolk village at the weekend have paid tribute to the “fun outgoing” father and grandfather, who was known for his “zest for life”.

Gregory Clipstone, 56, was piloting the light aircraft when it crash-landed and hit a tree in Aldham, near Hadleigh, on Saturday morning.

Mr Clipstone, who lived in Opal Avenue, Ipswich and owned the Motor Care garage in Providence Lane, has been described as an “extremely experienced” pilot who always did everything “by the book”.

Yesterday, his son James Clipstone, 33, said his father had been flying for more than 20 years and had owned two different aircraft during that time. He said the family had been shocked and devastated by the crash, adding: “My father lived fast and furious but he was meticulous with everything he did, and as a mechanic, he was incredibly conscious of maintaining everything to a high standard, including his plane. This is why it (the accident) has come as a big shock to us all.”

James described his dad as a loving husband, father, brother, friend and recently grandfather, who enjoyed flying as well as riding his motorcycle. He added: “Dad enjoyed spending time with family and friends, and he was really chuffed when he became a grandfather for the first time just three weeks ago.

“He was always willing to help his friends, family and many loyal customers. He was a firm believer that you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. He has always been an inspiration as a father and to those around him - he will be greatly missed.”

Mr Clipstone, who lost his wife several years ago, had six siblings and two children, James and Sarah, 30. According to Mr Clipstone’s partner Thirza Witts, of Clare near Sudbury, she was due to fly with him on the morning of the accident. She recalled: “Greg kept the aircraft at Newton and was only popping over to check it out because he hadn’t taken it up recently.

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“I’d been up dozens of times with him before and we were even planning to fly to France next year. He thought flying was the safest thing you could do.”

She continued: “He called me on Saturday morning and said do you fancy coming flying and the only reason I said no was because I was going Christmas shopping.”

Ms Witts, was due to meet Mr Clipstone for lunch on Saturday, but when he didn’t turn up or answer his phone calls, she became very anxious.

“When the police knocked on the door later in the afternoon, I just knew,” she said. “It has come as a big shock to us all because Greg did everything by the book when it came to flying. This has been completely devastating for his children because he was such a lovely, kind person – he will be sorely missed by a lot of people.”

An investigation is being carried out by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) to establish the cause of the crash, which left the plane submerged in a pond between two farmhouses. Suffolk Police are assisting the AAIB with the investigation.

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