A pilot who died in a light aircraft crash had almost rebuilt the entire plane himself – complete with a converted VW Campervan engine.
Stuart Penfold, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene at Waits Farm Airfield in Belchamp Walter, Essex on Sunday.
Mr Penfold was flying a Luton Minor when it crashed metres from the grass landing strip – the first fatality in the airstrip’s 51-year history.
In a tribute, Mr Penfold’s family said: “In loving memory of a devoted, reliable and wonderful husband, father and grandfather.
“A passionate light aircraft flyer and a keen member of Braintree Motorcycle Club, on a journey to his next destination.”
Airfield owner Richard Teverson said he had spoken to Mr Penfold just half an hour before take-off.
The chief executive of the Light Aircraft Association and close friend, Steve Slater, 50, said he helped Mr Penfold buy his Luton Minor, which he “practically rebuilt”.
Mr Slater said there are only about 20 Luton Minors currently in service as their development was stopped during World War Two.
The original ultralight aircraft weighed about 750 pounds (340 kg) and were made of wood covered with water-repellent coating.
Mr Penfold, from Halstead, Essex, was also a keen motorist and a member of Braintree and District Motorcycle Club.
The club said: “It’s with a very heavy heart that we have to report that club stalwart Stuart Penfold was tragically killed in that light aeroplane crash at Belchamp Walter you may have seen in the news.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, Richard, Carol and Helen.
“Stuart put a tremendous amount of work into this club, particularly the running of the junior academy dates, and leaves a massive void we will struggle to fill.
“RIP our friend.”
Friends paid heartfelt tributes to Mr Penfold on the club’s social media site.
Graham Davies said: “I heard the news of a light aircraft crashing this morning.
“This is very close to where I live and my first thought was I hope it wasn’t Stuart.
“I am heartbroken to hear that it was.
“I spent a year or so on the committee of the Braintree club and got to know Stuart quite well.
“He was kind, warm and had a wealth of great stories. He certainly licked the lid of life.
“My thoughts are with his family and the many people who knew him, and whose lives he enriched.”
Andrew John Prill said: “Such a tragic loss especially to anyone who had the privilege to know him or count him as a friend. Sincere condolences to the family.”
David Eggleton said: “He was enthusiastic about aeroplanes, motorcycles and old cars. But mainly I shall remember him for always having that infectious smile.”
Essex Police is helping the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and have sent a team to investigate the incident.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or saw the aircraft shortly before is asked to contact #Braintree Police Station on 101 quoting incident 503 of February 3.
by Emilia Bruce-Watt
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