Sala crash flight pilot flew too fast as he battled to avoid bad weather – investigators

The plane crash that killed footballer Emiliano Sala was caused by the pilot losing control while attempting to avoid bad weather, accident investigators said.

A final report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) concluded that the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft suffered an in-flight break up while being flown too fast for its design limits.

It added that pilot David Ibbotson, 59, was probably affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Investigators found that a contributory factor in the crash was Mr Ibbotson having no training in night flying and a lack of recent practice in relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane.

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Emiliano Sala
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Emiliano Sala
A picture shows flowers put in front of the entrance of the training center La Joneliere in La Chapelle-sur-Erdre on January 25, 2019, four days after the plane of Argentinian forward Emiliano Sala vanished during a flight from Nantes, (AFP Photo/LOIC VENANCE)
File photo dated 26/01/19 of a tribute to Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala shown on the big screen during the FA Cup fourth round match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Wreckage from the plane which disappeared with Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson on board has been found in the English Channel, search director David Mearns said.
A picture of Emiliano Sala is shown on the big screen in tribute to the missing footballer at Cardiff City Stadium during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock during a minutes silence in memory of Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City players during a minutes silence for Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City's Callum Paterson warms up ahead of the match whilst wearing a Emiliano Sala t-shirt during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of the match day programme with an image of Emiliano Sala on the cover in remembrance during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City fans wear dafodiles to honour missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans look on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Fans looking on at the flowers and scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of half and half scarves placed outside Cardiff City Stadium in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A view of a hat with written messages in tribute to Emiliano Sala during the Premier League match at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Watford and Tottenham Hotspur players during a minute's silence paying tribute to Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson before the Premier League match at Wembley Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a banner reading 'Emiliano Forever in our hearts' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Cardiff City fans in the stands with a flag reading 'Emiliano Sala Forever a Bluebird' during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
General view of the matchday programme which includes missing footballer Emiliano Sala in the Cardiff City squad alongside a yellow daffodil before the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.
Emiliano Sala's sister Romina (left) and mother Mercedes (centre) listen to Blue Water Recoveries director David Mearns talk about plans to find and recover the plane carrying the missing footballer and pilot David Ibbotson which disappeared over the English Channel, during a press conference at Guernsey airport.
Middlesbrough fans show their support for missing footballer Emiliano Sala during the FA Cup fourth round match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough.
FC Nantes football club supporters place flowers and a club scarf in the main square of the city of Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
People Of Nantes Continue To Pay Tribute To Emiliano Sala in Nantes, France, on 25 January 2019. Four days after the disappearance of the plane of the former Argentinian forward of the Football Club of Nantes (FC Nantes) Emiliano Sala, the emotion of the supporters of the club and the Nantes did not fall. (Photo by Estelle Ruiz/NurPhoto/Sipa USA)
The body is being taken to Portland to be passed over to the Dorset coroner for examination.
The St John Marine Ambulance, Flying Christine III, shrouded in fog as it is moored in Guernsey harbour. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
A view of the FPV Morven survey vessel moored in Guernsey Harbour which was used to discover the wreckage of the plane that was carrying footballer Emiliano Sala. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Argentinian striker Sala, 28, signed for Cardiff City from French club Nantes on January 19 2019 for £15 million.

Mr Ibbotson flew him from Cardiff to Nantes so he could say goodbye to his former team-mates later that day, before conducting the fatal return flight two days later when the plane plunged into the Channel.

Sala's body was recovered but Mr Ibbotson has not been found.

Neither Mr Ibbotson nor the plane was licensed for the flight to operate commercially but evidence showed he was to be paid a fee, the AAIB said.

Unlicensed charter flight operations – known as grey charters – generally incur lower operating costs.

Former football agent Willie McKay has said he paid for the fatal flight but did not choose the pilot or the plane.

He has explained he was helping his son Mark, who was acting for Nantes, to complete the transfer.

Alison Campbell, senior inspector for operations, said it was a dark night with "little or no" visible horizon.

"There was poor weather in the area, and from his radio calls, it was clear the pilot needed to manoeuvre to avoid it," she explained.

Following a descent of thousands of feet in a matter of seconds, the pilot attempted an "abrupt nose-up" manoeuvre.

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The funeral of Emiliano Sala
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The funeral of Emiliano Sala
The Cardiff FC manager and club chief executive paid their respects at a public vigil in Sala's hometown in Argentina.
The Cardiff FC manager and club chief executive paid their respects at a public vigil in Sala's hometown in Argentina.
The Cardiff manager and club chief executive paid their respects at a public vigil in Sala’s hometown in Argentina.
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Hundreds of people, relatives and residents of Progreso bid farewell to the remains of Emiliano Sala after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Football player of Nantes Nicolas Pallois (R), Dario Sala (C) brother of Emiliano Sala and Horacio Sala (C-back) his father, along with other relatives and friends carry the coffin followed by Sala's mother Carina Mercedes Taffarel (L) after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: A relative of Emiliano sala cries after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: A cross a flower arrangements are seen after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: A poster with Emiliano Sala's portrait and a phrase that reads 'Your legacy will be eternal' is taken away after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Football player of Nantes Nicolas Pallois (R), Dario Sala (C) brother of Emiliano Sala and Horacio Sala (C-back) his father, along with other relatives and friends carry the coffin followed by Sala's mother Carina Mercedes Taffarel (L) after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
Nantes' French defender Nicolas Pallois (C-L) Dario Sala (L) brother of late Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala and Horacio Sala (R-back) his father, along with other relatives and friends, carry the coffin as they leave Club Atletico y Deportivo San Martin during the funeral service in Progreso, Santa Fe, Argentina on February 16, 2019. - The death in a plane crash of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala was a cruel blow to family, friends and supporters in his home village in Argentina, and on Saturday they came, grieving, from miles around to pay their respects. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Relatives react as the coffin is being place in the hearse to take it to Santa Fe after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
Nantes' French defender Nicolas Pallois (C) Dario Sala (2-L) brother of late Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala, Horacio Sala (C-back) his father along with relatives and friends, carry the coffin during his funeral at the Club Atletico y Deportivo San Martin in Progreso, Santa Fe, Argentina on February 16, 2019. - The death in a plane crash of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala was a cruel blow to family, friends and supporters in his home village in Argentina, and on Saturday they came, grieving, from miles around to pay their respects. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Horacio Sala father of Emiliano cries after a vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
Romina Sala sister of late Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala, kisses her brother's coffin after it was loaded on a hearse, during his funeral at the Club Atletico y Deportivo San Martin in Progreso, Santa Fe, Argentina on February 16, 2019. - The death in a plane crash of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala was a cruel blow to family, friends and supporters in his home village in Argentina, and on Saturday they came, grieving, from miles around to pay their respects. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nantes' French defender Nicolas Pallois (L) and relatives of late Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala carry his coffin during the funeral at the Club Atletico y Deportivo San Martin in Progreso, Santa Fe, Argentina on February 16, 2019. - The death in a plane crash of Cardiff City striker Emiliano Sala was a cruel blow to family, friends and supporters in his home village in Argentina, and on Saturday they came, grieving, from miles around to pay their respects. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Emiliano Sala's aunt Mirta Taffarel talks to the media as she leaves the vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
PROGRESO, ARGENTINA - FEBRUARY 16: Emiliano Sala's aunt Mirta Taffarel talks to the media as she leaves the vigil at Sala's boyhood club San Martin de Progreso on February 16, 2019 in Progreso, Argentina. 28-year-old striker was killed when the private plane carrying him from Nantes to Cardiff crashed in the English Channel near Alderney on January 21. Sala's body was recovered from the wreckage on February 6 and pilot David Ibbotson remains missing. (Photo by Gustavo Garello/Getty Images)
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This was conducted at a speed far in excess of the design limits of the plane, causing it to break-up.

Investigators concluded that the aircraft entered the Channel upside down, and the impact was "not survivable".

The AAIB also revealed that the pilot informed a number of individuals about four potential problems with the aircraft that had occurred during the outbound flight from Cardiff.

This included a "bang", although its cause is unknown and it could not be determined if it was a factor in the crash.

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