Sala flight fixer admits he broke rules over fatal aircraft charter

October 19 – A man involved in the arrangement of the fatal flight that carried Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala to Cardiff to sign for the Welsh club almost three years ago admitted to one charge in court on Monday.

David Henderson was accused of acting in a reckless or negligent manner that could have endangered the plane.

Henderson chartered the flight at the request of intermediary Willie McKay and his son Mark, the agent mandated by Nantes to carry out Sala’s transfer from the French club.

Henderson admitted to operating a commercial aircraft without permission at the start of his trial but denied the charge of endangering the aircraft and the people on it.

The small private plane carrying 28-year-old Sala and pilot David Ibbotson crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019. An unsavoury dispute over who was liable for his €17 million transfer fee to Cardiff has dragged on ever since.

Sala’s body was found in the plane’s wreckage, more than two weeks after the accident, at a depth of 67 metres. The body of the 59-year-old pilot has never been found.

In its final report published in March 2020, the UK Aviation Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) estimated that the pilot lost control of the aircraft – a Piper PA-46 Malibu – during a manoeuvre performed at too high a speed, “probably” intended to avoid bad weather.

Investigators also believe that the pilot was “probably” poisoned with carbon monoxide from the engine’s exhaust system.  They also pointed out that the flight took place under conditions that did not comply with rules governing commercial flights.

The pilot flew by sight, at night, in difficult weather conditions, and did not have the licence to pilot this type of plane or to fly at night, the AAIB said.

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