Pilot told friend plane was ‘dodgy’ ahead of fatal flight which killed footballer Emiliano Sala | UK News

The pilot of a plane in which Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala died described the aircraft as “dodgy” in a voicemail to a friend before the fatal flight, it has emerged.

The striker had just signed for Cardiff City – then in the Premier League – for a club record fee of £15m and was killed in the evening flight from Nantes to Wales on 21 January 2019.

An inquest in March found the 28-year-old player died from head and chest injuries but was deeply unconscious, having been poisoned by fumes from the Piper Malibu’s faulty exhaust system.

The pilot David Ibbotson, who also died in the crash in the English Channel close to Guernsey, had vowed in the message to wear his life jacket for the flight.

Newly-released audio from the BBC’s Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story podcast also reveals Mr Ibbotson appeared to have concerns about the plane following an earlier outward flight from Cardiff to Nantes.

“I picked a footballer up from Cardiff. He’s just been bought from Nantes for, I think it was about, £20m worth or something,” Mr Ibbotson said in a voicemail to friend Kevin Jones.

“They’ve entrusted me to pick him up in a dodgy (aircraft). Normally I have my life jacket between my seats, but tomorrow I’m wearing my life jacket, that’s for sure.”

Handout file image dated 03/02/19 from a video issued by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the wreckage of the plane which crashed into the Channel killing footballer Emiliano Sala.  David Henderson, the businessman who organized the flight that crashed, killing footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of endangering the safety of an aircraft.  Issue date: Thursday October 28, 2021.
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The Air Accidents Investigation Branch released this photo of the plane underwater

Pilot heard ‘a bang’ during flight

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

He told Mr Jones before departing Nantes that he heard “a bang” during the outward flight.

“I’m mid-Channel and ‘bang’,” the pilot said in the recording.

“I’m flying along and then ‘boom’. I thought, ‘what’s wrong?’ So I put everything forward and checked my parameters, everything was good, and it was still flying, but it got your attention.

“That Malibu, occasionally you’ve got like a mist every so often. You can feel it, very, very low throughout the airframe.”

After realizing the plane’s left brake pedal was not working when he landed at Nantes Atlantique airport, he added to Mr Jones: “This aircraft has got to go back in the hangar.”

Read more:
Who was Emiliano Sala?

Cardiff supporters gather to pay tribute to Argentinian soccer player Emiliano Sala.  Peak: AP
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Cardiff fans gathered to pay tribute Sala after his death. Peak: AP

Pilot and businessman David Henderson, 67, managed the single-engine aircraft on behalf of its owner and arranged flights, pilots and maintenance, despite not being the legally registered operator.

Last year, Mr Henderson was jailed for 18 months after being convicted of endangering the safety of an aircraft by using Mr Ibbotson’s services when he knew he did not have the relevant licences.

He admitted a further offense of trying to arrange a flight for a passenger without permission or authorization.

last month, Cardiff were ordered to pay the first installation of Sala’s transfer fee after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the deal was complete before the player’s death.

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