Friends mourn gyrocopter pilot |

Friends mourn gyrocopter pilot

Friends and family of a Nevada City electrical engineer who died in a gyrocopter crash Saturday said they will remember him as an adventurous family man.

There will be a gathering of friends to celebrate the life of Gregory Scott Gillespie, 44, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the home of Dr. Richard Goddard, 108 Sierra Blanca Court in Grass Valley.

Marysville gyrocopter business owner Joe Souza said Gillespie apparently crashed upside down into the Feather River bottoms next to the Yuba County Airport. Souza went to the site with Federal Aviation Administration inspectors Monday and surveyed the wreckage.

Souza said he was not certain, but it appeared Gillespie may have over-controlled the craft, causing its upper rotors to lose speed, which caused the copter to roll over and plunge to the ground. Yuba County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Allan Garza said the first caller on the crash reported hearing the copter’s engine sputter.

According to the FAA, a gyrocopter is in the same class as a helicopter but is powered by a rear propeller, with its unpowered upper rotors used solely for lift. The FAA’s full crash investigation could take months to complete.

Gregory Gillespie was recalled Tuesday as an outdoors-oriented family man.

“He was nice and incredibly detail oriented,” said Janet Gillespie Tuesday of her late husband, who was an electrical engineer. “He loved to hike in the mountains and ride his motorcycle down to the Yuba, but he always loved to fly.”

Gregory Gillespie grew up in Arkansas, South Carolina and Wisconsin, his wife said. He had a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and a master’s from Georgia Tech University. He came to work for the Grass Valley Group 13 years ago and worked for various area firms throughout his time in Nevada County.

He is also survived by his sons Eric, 15, a Nevada Union High School student; and Cameron “C.J.”, 11, who attends Grass Valley Charter School. His parents, Claud and Lois Gillespie, live in Aken, S.C.

Gregory Gillespie was vice president of the Sierra Nevada Flyers, an aviator club that shares a small Beechcraft airplane at the Nevada County Airport.

“He was a courageous individual and a good pilot,” said fellow club member Jim Wagner, formerly of Alta Sierra and now living in Sparks, Nev. “He was a rather independent individual, and he was very adventurous.”

His wife said Gillespie held a fixed-wing plane license and was just learning to fly his gyrocopter, which he bought as a kit. Instructor Gary Brewer of Vacaville certified Gillespie to fly his gyrocopter solo one month ago today.

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