What happened during Emiliano Sala’s fatal flight?

Following the publication of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the plane crash involving footballer Emiliano Sala, here are some questions about the tragedy answered.

– What happened?

On January 21 2019, a Piper Malibu aircraft carrying Argentinian striker Emiliano Sala, 28, plunged into the Channel, north-west of Guernsey.

The plane, which was piloted David Ibbotson, took off from Nantes in France at 7.06pm and was travelling to Cardiff in Wales, before it disappeared at about 8.16pm.

Sala plane crash
Sala plane crash

– What went wrong?

The AAIB concluded that Mr Ibbotson lost control of the plane while attempting to carry out a turn to remain clear of the bad weather.

The aircraft broke-up mid-flight due to it manoeuvring at a high speed which was “significantly” in excess of what it was designed to do.

The report found that Mr Ibbotson was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning at the time.

– How many people died?

Two people were killed. Sala’s body was recovered from the wreckage, which remains underwater off the coast of Guernsey.

However, Mr Ibbotson has not been found.

– Who was the pilot?

Mr Ibbotson, 59, from Crowle in north Lincolnshire, had around 3,500 hours worth of flying experience, gaining much of it piloting single and twin engine aircraft while dropping off parachutists.

He had no training in night flying and a lack of recent practice in instrument flying. He was found to be colour blind in 2001, but more detailed tests in 2012 determined he was “colour safe” for the purposes of flying.

– Who was the passenger?

Sala plane crash report
Sala plane crash report

Sala was an Argentine professional footballer who had signed for Cardiff City from French club Nantes for £15 million just two days before he died.

He had played for Nantes for three-and-a-half years, scoring 42 goals in 120 league games.

– Why has the plane not been recovered?

An attempt was made to recover the wreckage of the light aircraft on February 6 2019, but it was hampered by bad weather at the time.

The AAIB said it had not tried again due to the high costs involved, the information already collected and the risk the wreckage would “not yield definitive evidence”.