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21st Sep 2022

Pilot of Emiliano Sala flight said plane was ‘dodgy’ prior to take off

Callum Boyle

Emiliano Sala

‘Tomorrow I’m wearing my lifejacket’

The pilot of the plane in which footballer Emiliano Sala died said that the plane was “dodgy” and said he would wear his lifejacket prior to the flight.

David Ibbotson was flying the 28-year-old from Nantes in France to Wales to join the then Premier League club Cardiff City in 2019 when the plane crashed in the English Channel close to Guernsey.

Ibbotson also died in the crash but in audio obtained by the BBCthe 59-year-old is heard describing his concerns about the aircraft.

“I picked a footballer up from Cardiff. He’s just been bought from Nantes for, I think it was about, 20 million pounds worth or something,” he said to his friend, Kevin Jones, in a voicemail.

“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.”

The pilot, whose body was never found, was only an amateur pilot and wasn’t allowed to fly passengers or fly during the night, and claimed that he had heard a “bang” during the outward flight.

“I’m mid-Channel and ‘bang,'” Ibbotson added.

“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.

“That Malibu, occasionally you’ve got like a mist every so often. You can feel it, very, very low throughout the airframe.”

The 59-year-old also told Jones that “this aircraft has got to go back in the hanger” after discovering that the plane’s left brake pedal was not working after arriving at Nantes airport.

Voice notes from the footballer have also emerged which reveal that Sala was also concerned by the state of the aircraft and was left “scared” to fly.

“Man, I’m scared,” he told his friends.

“I don’t know if someone will look for me because they won’t find me.”

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