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Businessman, 66, who arranged Emiliano Sala flight arrives at court

Businessman, 66, who arranged Emiliano Sala flight arrives at court accused of ‘recklessly’ risking lives after £13m striker and pilot died in Channel air crash

  • 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
  • Henderson denies all wrongdoing and is in  Cardiff Crown Court today


A pilot arrived at court today to stand trial over the tragic death of a £13m football star after his flight crashed in the English channel.

David Henderson, 66, is charged over the death of striker Emiliano Sala who was killed on the flight to Britain from his French club.

Henderson recruited David Ibbotson as a last-minute stand-in to fly the plane.

But a court has heard he allegedly did not have a commercial licence and was ‘not competent’ to fly in bad weather.

Striker Sala, 28, was on his way to the UK to sign for Cardiff City in a £15, 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.

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

Emiliano Sala signing for Cardiff before the plane crash that tragically ended his life

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.

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 59-year-old Ibbotson has not been found.

Dave Ibbotson (right) from Crowle, north Lincolnshire, who was the pilot of the Piper Malibu carrying footballer Emiliano Sala

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

A Piper Malibu aircraft, similar to the one missing after disaster struck the flight

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 had been charged under the Air Navigation Order (2016).

He denied ‘endangering the safety of an aircraft’ by acting in a ‘dangerous or reckless manner’.

The 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 is also accused of attempting to discharge a passenger.

Henderson, of the East Riding of Yorkshire, will face a two week trial in front of a High Court Judge in the prosecution brought by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Henderson had wanted the trial to be moved away from the Welsh capital to ensure no Cardiff City fans were on the jury.

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