On Wednesday, a court heard phone messages that the pilot of the plane that crashed with Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala on board never held a night flight license, a report said.
Pilot David Ibbotson, 59, died along with the 28-year-old Argentine striker, when the light plane crashed in the English Channel during its flight from Nantes, France, to the Welsh capital, Cardiff, in January 2019.
The night flight was arranged by the aircraft’s operator, David Henderson, 67, who is being tried in Cardiff Crown Court for endangering the safety of the aircraft.
And the British news agency (PA Media) revealed that the jury learned today, Wednesday, that Henderson hired Ibbotson to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu, despite his being ineligible.
The court heard messages found from Henderson’s phone after his arrest in June 2019 showed that he had known since at least May 2018 that Ibbotson had only held a private pilot’s license, which did not allow him to fly for money.
John Overall, of the Civil Aviation Authority, said Ibbotson’s classification for flying Piper Malibu expired in November 2018.
Overall also noted that he could not find any record of Ibbotson obtaining certification for night flying.
Asked by Attorney General Martin Judy, whether someone was allowed to fly at night without a night flight assessment, Overall said: “No. Unless you’re training. It’s a simple ban.”
Letters read in court between the accused and Mr Ibbotson since August 2018 showed that he was aware of the pilot’s inability to fly after dark.
On August 14, 2018, Henderson asked Ibbotson, “Can you fly at night?”, to which Ibbotson’s response came 3 days later, saying, “It’s better to get my nightly assessment ASAP.”
Other communications in October of that year included Henderson telling the pilot: “Night flying will be the norm now. You need your night ratings.”
He later added, “Can you get your nightly assessment to make it all official?”, telling Ibbotson Henderson that he would pay to take the test the following month because he was currently paying for a vacation in Australia and was short of money.
Henderson later told Ibbotson that this was an “essential investment”. Prosecutors allege that although Henderson knew Ibbotson could not legally fly at night, they employed him on the return flight from the French city to the Welsh capital, which was scheduled to take place on January 21, 2019.
Sala’s body was recovered from the sea floor the following month, but neither Ibbotson’s body nor the plane’s wreckage were found.
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