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Emiliano Sala: Pilot said friend’s plane was “sneaky” ahead of Cardiff City footballer’s fatal flight

The pilot of the plane where football player Emiliano Sala was killed described the plane as “crafty” and promised to wear a life vest before the fatal flight.

An investigation in March found the Argentine-born attacker died of head and chest injuries but was deeply unconscious after poisoning by fumes from a faulty Piper Malibu exhaust system on the evening of January 21, 2019.

The 28-year-old player was flying from Nantes, France to Wales to join Premier League club Cardiff City when the plane crashed in the English Channel near Guernsey, also killing 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson.

The newly released audio from the BBC Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story podcast shows that Mr. Ibbotson seemed to have concerns about the plane after flying from Cardiff to Nantes.

“I chose a player from Cardiff. It was just bought from Nantes for, I think it was worth about £ 20m or something, ”he said in the voicemail to friend Kevin Jones.

“They trusted me to take him to the suspects (by plane).

“Normally I have a life jacket between the seats, but I’m wearing a life jacket tomorrow, that’s for sure,” he added.

This plane has to go back to the hangar

David Ibbotson

Mr. Ibbotson, whose body was never found, was only an amateur pilot and could not carry passengers or fly at night.

He told Mr. Jones before departing from Nantes that he had heard a “boom” in flight.

“I’m halfway through the channel and boom,” said the pilot in the recording.

“I’m flying, then boom.” I thought, “What’s going on?” So I presented everything and checked the parameters, everything was fine and still flying, but it got your attention. “

He said, “This Malibu, you have a fog every now and then. You can feel it, very, very low throughout the airframe. “

David Henderson was imprisoned last year for 18 months (Jacob King / PA)

(PA Archive)

“This plane has to go back to the hangar,” he added to Jones after realizing the plane’s left brake pedal was not working when it landed at Nantes Atlantique.

Pilot and businessman David Henderson, 67, managed a single-engine aircraft on behalf of its owner and arranged flights, pilots and maintenance even though he is not a legally registered operator.

Soccer agent Willie McKay, who helped his son Mark’s company represent Nantes in the transfer, was a long-term client.

Mr. McKay organized the flights and said he wanted to help Sala get back to Nantes to say goodbye to his teammates, saying Cardiff City had “abandoned” him.

He denied knowingly organizing illegal ‘gray’ flights with Mr Henderson, who did not hold an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for paying passenger flights.

Aside from the lack of an AOC, Mr. Henderson kept no records or invoices regarding his activities or the qualifications of the pilots who flew for him.

Mr. Ibbotson also reported to Mr. Henderson a loud bang between Cardiff and Nantes – but the engineer was never asked to investigate when the plane landed in France.

Its owner had banned it from flying the Piper Malibu after two airspace violations a few months earlier, but Henderson allowed it to continue.

Last year, Mr. Henderson was sentenced to 18 months in prison for compromising the safety of the aircraft by engaging Mr. Ibbotson when he knew he did not have the appropriate licenses.

He pleaded guilty to another offense of attempting to arrange a flight for a passenger without authorization or authorization.

Following the March investigation, the coroner promised to write to the government and the sports industry about its concerns about illegal “gray” passenger flights.

Rachael Griffin, the senior coroner of Dorset, said she was so concerned about private charters carrying paying passengers that she was under an obligation to alert authorities and ask if the Civil Aviation Authority had sufficient authority to investigate illegal flights.

Last month, Cardiff was ordered to pay the first installment of the Hall’s transfer fee after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the deal had been completed before his death.


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