Emiliano Sala: Aircraft passed checks months before doomed flight

Posted at 8:46 AM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 11:02:31-05

The aircraft which crashed while carrying footballer Emiliano Sala passed a maintenance check months before the doomed flight, according to findings published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

The interim report outlines the final minutes of the flight from Nantes, northern France, to the Welsh capital of Cardiff, in which the 28-year-old striker and pilot David Ibbotson lost their lives on January 21.

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The latest update confirmed the single-turbine plane was found “in three parts held together by electrical and flying control cables” and that it had undergone a scheduled maintenance in November 2018.

Findings also detailed how the plane changed altitudes a number of times before losing contact.

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The AAIB’s principal inspector Geraint Herbert said: “We have been gathering evidence from the wreckage, from video of the wreckage, we’ve been looking at radar evidence, we’ve been looking at weather reports we have from the area and we’ve been interviewing witnesses.

“The Air Accidents Investigation Branch will now analyse the evidence we have to try and build a picture of what happened.”

A full report which will look to “examine all pertinent operational, technical, organisational and human factors which might have contributed to the accident”.

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Sala’s body was recovered from the plane’s wreckage after a private search, commissioned by his family and financed by a crowdfunding campaign.

The body of the 59-year-old Ibbotson, who held a private pilot’s license (PPL), has not yet been recovered but the pilot is presumed dead.

According to the report, a PPL “does not allow a pilot carry passengers for reward,” but says the basis on which Sala was carried “has not yet been established.” Previously, it said, Ibbotson had carried passengers on a “cost sharing” basis.

The Argentine striker had joined the Welsh side for a reported £15 million ($19.3 million) from French side Nantes and was heading to Wales after saying farewell to his former teammates.

His body was flown back to his hometown of Progreso, Argentina, for his funeral on February 16.

A public service was held in the gymnasium of the player’s boyhood football club, before a private service later in the evening.