Daily Mail

Sala pilot told pal plane was ‘dodgy’

- By LIZ HULL

The pilot who flew Cardiff striker emiliano Sala to his death told a friend the plane was ‘dodgy’ hours before the fatal crash.

David Ibbotson said he had heard a ‘ bang’ on his outward journey to France with the Argentine player, who had just become then Premier League side Cardiff City’s record £15million signing from Nantes.

he also said: ‘I’ll be wearing my life jacket,’ for the return leg.

Ibbotson, 59, a part-time pilot who didn’t have a licence to carry paying passengers or fly in the dark, made the comments in a telephone call to friend Kevin Jones.

Audio of the call, obtained by the BBC, revealed he was worried about the 35- year- old Piper Malibu plane.

Mr Ibbotson said: ‘ They’ve entrusted me to pick him up in a dodgy Mirage. Normally I’d have my life jacket in between my seats but tomorrow I’ll be wearing it, that’s for sure.’

he claimed he heard a bang over the Channel as the pair flew to western France, on January 19, 2019, and also complained of ‘very low mist’ inside the aircraft.

‘ I’m flying along and then “boom”,’ he said. ‘ I thought, “Bloody hell 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.’

Mr Ibbotson, of Crowle, in North Lincolnshi­re, also realised the plane’s left brake pedal wasn’t working after he landed at Nantes and told Mr Jones: ‘This aircraft has got to go back in the hangar.’

he added prophetica­lly: ‘ Might be your last chance to have a good old chat with me.’

Mr Ibbotson’s conversati­on with Mr Jones was accidental­ly recorded and has been obtained by the BBC’s Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story podcast.

Cardiff City had offered Sala a commercial flight, via Paris, but he wanted more time to say goodbye to friends and team-mates in Nantes before returning to Wales for his first training session.

Instead Willie McKay, a football agent who helped broker the transfer, chartered the private flight via another pilot, David henderson.

But former rAF officer henderson was at his son’s wedding and called in Mr Ibbotson instead.

The striker, 28, did not know Mr Ibbotson wasn’t qualified to fly him and also expressed his fears about the aircraft in a voice note sent to his closest friends as the plane was taxiing on the runway at Nantes Atlantique Airport.

Sala told them: ‘Man, I’m scared,’ adding that the plane looked ‘like it’s falling apart. I don’t know if someone will look for me because they won’t find me’.

The plane lost radio contact and crashed in a storm around 8.15pm on January 21, an hour after take-off.

Air accident investigat­ors found the plane also had a faulty tailpipe. Both men would have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the plane hit the water at 270mph.

Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage, 223ft below the english Channel, two weeks after the crash. Mr Ibbotson’s remains have never been found.

henderson, 68, was jailed for 18 months in November for endangerin­g the safety of an aircraft.

 ?? AFP ?? Tragic: Cardiff striker Sala
AFP Tragic: Cardiff striker Sala

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