Emiliano Sala’s flight pilot decided to wear life jacket as plane was ‘dodgy’

The pilot who flew Emiliano Sala's doomed flight across the English Channel told friends he thought the plane was "dodgy", it's been revealed.

Following his £15m transfer from Nantes to Cardiff City in January 2019, Sala and pilot David Ibbotson were killed after their light aircraft crashed into the sea a few miles off the coast of Guernsey.

In audio obtained by the BBC, Ibbotson is heard telling a friend that he "heard a bang" on a previous flight and that he would be "wearing my life jacket" for the ultimately ill-fated journey from France to Wales.

READ MORE: Emiliano Sala felt pressured into making transfer to Cardiff City, inquest hears

Ibbotson, who wasn't licensed to carry passengers at the time of the crash, or qualified to fly at night, rang fellow pilot Kevin Jones complaining about a "very low mist" inside the 35-year-old Piper Malibu plane.

When Sala's body was recovered – two weeks after the fatal crash – an investigation found that he had been exposed to carbon monoxide which had leaked into the cabin of the aircraft and may have impaired the judgement of the pilot.

"That Malibu, occasionally you've got like a mist every so often. You can feel it, very, very low throughout the airframe," Ibbotson told Jones.

He also told his friend about a huge bang he heard during a previous flight and insisted the aircraft needed to go "back in the hangar" after realising its left brake pedal wasn't working.

"I'm mid-Channel and 'bang'," Ibbotson said. "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."

Ahead of the doomed flight back to Cardiff, Mr Ibbotson added: "Normally I'd have my life jacket between my seats but tomorrow I'll be wearing my life jacket."

It wasn't just Ibbotson who was concerned about the state of the aircraft. Sala sent a WhatsApp audio message to a group of friends while taxiing to the runway, telling them that the plane was "falling to pieces" and that he was "getting scared".

"I am now on board a plane that seems like it is falling to pieces … If you do not have any more news in an hour and a half, I don't know if they need to send someone to find me. I am getting scared," the Argentinian said.

It's understood Cardiff had offered their new signing a commercial flight, via Paris, but Sala wanted more time to say goodbye to friends and team-mates in Nantes before returning to Wales for his first training session with his new club.

They then chartered a private plane to fly Sala over, through another pilot, David Henderson. But because Henderson was unavailable, he called Mr Ibbotson and asked him to fly instead.

A few months later, Henderson was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter, and in 2021 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for endangering the the safety of an aircraft.


  • Emiliano Sala flight organiser David Henderson sentenced to 18 months in prison

  • Emiliano Sala pilot was told "he shouldn't be flying the aircraft" before fatal crash

  • Emiliano Sala's sister shares heartbreaking post days after attempt to take her own life

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