Emiliano Sala pilot told friend plane was dodgy before fatal flight

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An inquest in March found the Argentina-born striker died from head and chest injuries. But he was already unconscious from fumes from the Piper Malibu’s faulty exhaust system on the evening of January 21, 2019.

The 28-year-old was flying from Nantes in France to Wales to join Cardiff City when the plane crashed in the Channel close to Guernsey, also killing 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson, whose body has not been found.

Audio from the BBC podcast Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story, shows Mr Ibbotson had concerns about the plane after the flight from Cardiff to Nantes. In a voicemail to his friend Kevin Jones, he said: “I picked a footballer up from Cardiff.

“He’s just been bought from Nantes for, I think it was about, 20 million pounds worth. They’ve entrusted me to pick him up in a dodgy (aircraft). Normally I have my lifejacket between my seats but tomorrow I’m wearing my lifejacket, that’s for sure.”

Mr Ibbotson was an amateur pilot and 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’. Then ‘boom’. I thought, ‘what’s wrong?’ So I checked my parameters, everything was good, 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.

“This aircraft has got to go back in the hanger,” he added, after realising the plane’s left brake pedal was not working when he landed at Nantes airport.

Pilot and businessman David Henderson, 67, managed the aircraft on behalf of its owner.

Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, North Lincolnshire, had reported the bang between Cardiff and Nantes to Henderson – but the plane was not looked at when it landed in France.

Last year, Henderson was jailed for 18 months for endangering a plane’s safety by using Mr Ibbotson when he knew he did not have the right licences.

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