A plane crash which claimed the life of a pilot from Halstead could have been caused by ice, an investigation has revealed.

Stuart Penfold, 54, died when his Luton Minor plane, G-AWMN, crashed into a field near Belchamp Walter on February 3 this year.

A probe into the tragedy was launched by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A report into the incident was released yesterday.

The AAIB said it was not possible to definitively determine the cause of the accident, but ice could have led to a loss of power, causing the engine to stall.

The report said: “The pilot was conducting a test flight in G-AWMN to renew the aircraft’s Permit to Fly.

“Whilst climbing away from the runway, the aircraft was observed to bank to the right and then descend steeply to the ground.

“It was not possible to definitively determine the cause of the accident. It is possible that the engine stopped producing power due to carburettor icing, which led to a stall from which the aircraft was not able to recover.”

A witness had seen the aircraft bank sharply to the right and descend at about 45 degrees, before hearing it hit the ground.

The report said: “He ran towards the accident site but, approximately three minutes after the impact and before he could reach the scene, the aircraft caught fire.”

Mr Penfold had more than 300 hours of flying experience, 150 of which were in G-AWMN.

The report added: “No-one witnessed G-WMN taking off and it is not known exactly when the aircraft was started up.

“The airfield owner heard G-AWMN start up but was not sure exactly what time this occurred, but he was informed of the accident approximately ten-15 minutes later.

“The pilot who took off from Waits Farm at 11am reported that, when he started his engine, the surface wind was west south-westerly at approximately 7-8kt, the temperature was -1°C and the grass was wet with melting frost.”

The report said there was a “moderate risk” of carburettor icing at cruise power and a “serious risk” at descent power in those conditions, but with wet ground and light winds the risk could be higher.

Mr Penfold’s family described him as a “devoted and wonderful husband, father and grandfather”, following the tragedy.

He was a passionate light aircraft flyer and a keen member of Braintree Motorcycle Club.

The club said his death had left a “massive void”.