Businessman, 66, admits he arranged illegal flight that crashed into the Channel causing the deaths of £15m Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala and pilot
- The Argentinian footballer was travelling from France for a transfer to Cardiff
- He boarded a single-engine Piper Malibu but it crashed near Guernsey
- Pilot David Henderson, 66, is charged with ‘endangering the safety of an aircraft’
- He was not on the plane but recruited someone else as last-minute stand-in
A pilot today admitted organising the flight that led to a £15m football star being killed when his light aircraft crashed in the English Channel.
David Henderson, 67, pleaded guilty to one charge over the death of striker Emiliano Sala, 28, who was killed on the stormy trip to Britain from his French club to join Cardiff City.
Henderson admitted that he was the operator when his plane took payment for Sala to fly “without permission or authorisation” from outside Britain.
The formal charge read: “On the 21/1/19 as the operator of aircraft registration N264DB attempted to cause N264DB an aircraft register elsewhere that the UK to discharge a passenger Emiliano Sala at Cardiff in the UK for valuable consideration without permission or authorisation.”
He is denying another charge after recruiting fellow pilot David Ibbotson, 59, as a last-minute stand-in to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu from France to Cardiff airport.
David Henderson, 67, is charged over the death of striker Emiliano Sala, 28, who was killed on the stormy flight to Britain from his French club
Emiliano Sala signing for Cardiff before the plane crash that tragically ended his life
But a court has heard he allegedly did not have a commercial licence and was “not competent” to fly in bad weather.
The two-week trial is due to start tomorrow(tues) after the jury are questioned before being sworn in – including being asked if they are fans of Cardiff City.
Striker Sala was on his way to the UK to play for Cardiff City in a £15m move from French side Nantes when the tragedy happened.
But his flight never arrived – Sala and pilot Mr Ibbotson died when the plane careered into the water.
Henderson wearing a blue suit and tie arrived at Cardiff Crown Court with his legal team for the hearing.
Argentinian Sala was much feted ahead of his planned Premier League move to Cardiff City. He was killed when the plane crashed north of Guernsey on January 21, 2019.
Dave Ibbotson (right) from Crowle, north Lincolnshire, who was the pilot of the Piper Malibu carrying footballer Emiliano Sala
A Piper Malibu aircraft, similar to the one missing after disaster struck the flight
There was a huge outpouring of grief following his death with thousands of fans leaving tributes at the stadium.
Sala’s body was recovered the following month, but the body of Ibbotson, of Crowle, Lincs, has not been found.
Henderson was originally feared to be on the plane because his bank details had been used to book the flight.
Henderson allegedly recruited Mr Ibbotson for return flights that weekend heading to and from France both with Sala on board.
He flew from Cardiff on January 18 before the fatal flight from Nantes on January 21.
The court heard Henderson was charged with two offences under the Air Navigation Order (2016).
An earlier court heard Mr Ibbotson “did not have a commercial pilot’s licence or a licence that had expired in December 2018.”
The charge stated Henderson knew that “bad weather was forecast and Mr Ibbotson was not competent to fly in that weather.”
He also denied a charged related to Mr Ibbotson not having a commercial pilot’s licence at the time of the flight, with it having expired in November 2018.
It also related to the bad weather which was forecast for the fatal return journey from Nantes to Cardiff, with the pilot not being “competent to fly in such weather”.
Henderson, of the East Riding of Yorkshire, will face a two week trial in front of a High Court Judge Mr Justice Foxton in the prosecution brought by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Sala’s family living in Argentina are not expected in court to hear the trial.