Organiser of footballer Emiliano Sala's flight 'knew pilot was not qualified'

David Henderson is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft.

10/19/2021 10:59:00 PM

David Henderson is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft.

The court heard how he 'was aware that there were issues with Mr Ibbotson's flying from the start.'

David Henderson, 67, is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court for the flight carrying footballer (Picture: PA)A man on trial over the plane crash that killed Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala organised the flight knowing the pilot he had hired was not qualified, a jury has heard.

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David Henderson, of Hotham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft.The 67-year-old previously pleaded guilty to attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.Sala, 28, died when the plane he was travelling in crashed in the English Channel on January 21, 2019. The pilot, David Ibbotson was also killed.

The single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft had been bringing him to Wales ahead of a multimillion pound transfer to Cardiff City from French club Nantes.His body was recovered from the seabed the following month, but neither the body of Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, Lincolnshire, nor the plane’s wreckage, was recovered. headtopics.com

On Tuesday, Martin Goudie QC, prosecuting, told the jury at Cardiff Crown Court the case involved two flights, one from Cardiff to Nantes on January 19 and a return flight to the Welsh capital on January 21.Footballer Emiliano Sala and the pilot flying the plane both died when the aircraft crashed into the sea off Guernsey in January 2019 (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Goudie said the timing of the flights amid a period when Cardiff City Football Club were in the process of signing Mr Sala was important.He said Henderson had organised them because ‘it was in his financial interest’.The court heard that Henderson had been due to pilot the aircraft which was transporting Sala, but instead went on holiday with his wife to Paris.

As a result, he organised for David Ibbotson, who he had ‘a significant history with and knowledge of’ to pilot the flights.Mr Goudie told the jury that Henderson ‘was aware that there were issues with Mr Ibbotson’s flying from the start’.The court heard how Henderson received a message from another person who had flown with Mr Ibbotson, describing his flying as ‘all over the place’.

In the summer of 2018 he had received an email from the owner of the plane, Fay Keely, saying that Mr Ibbotson should no longer pilot it after she was contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over two airspace infringements that had happened when Mr Ibbotson was flying. headtopics.com

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The single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft had been bringing Emiliano Sala to Wales as he was joining Cardiff City in a multimillion-pound transfer deal from French club Nantes (Picture: AFP/Getty)Henderson later told Mr Ibbotson in a message: ‘We both have an opportunity to make money out of the business model but not if we upset clients or draw the attention of the CAA.’

Mr Ibbotson and Henderson exchanged messages in the run-up to Christmas about him getting his night rating, with the defendant saying it was an ‘essential investment,’ Mr Goudie said.Further communications show Henderson knew Mr Ibbotson only had a private pilot licence, and that he had still not qualified to fly at night or in bad weather, when he was organising for him to transport Sala a month later in January.

In the run-up to the flight, Henderson messaged Mr Ibbotson asking whether he could fly on his instruments, rather than by sight, due to the bad weather that was forecast.The prosecutor told the court: ‘The response is not that I am qualified and more than competent to do this, but I have done it before and you know I am not qualified.’

Mr Goudie told the court that by organising the flights in an aircraft that was ‘not authorised for such flights and in using a pilot who was neither qualified nor competent to complete’ them, Henderson ‘acted either negligently or recklessly’ in a way that was likely to endanger those on the flight. headtopics.com

He said Henderson ‘ignored certain requirements when it suited him and his business interests.’A jury of seven men and five women have been selected to hear the case.They were chosen after first confirming they were not Cardiff City FC supporters and not regular attendees of matches.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, is being heard in front of Mr Justice Foxton, a High Court judge. Read more: Metro »

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