Monday, 25 February 2019

AAIB issue special report on the plane crash that killed footballer Emiliano Sala

The UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch has issued a special interim report in the crash of a Piper PA-46-310P Malibu, with the registration N264DB, that claimed the life of Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala. 

The aircraft was lost some 22 nautical miles north-northwest of Guernsey, the Channel Islands on 21st January 2019 performing a flight from Nantes to Cardiff for Sala who had just signed for the Premiership football club Cardiff City. 

While the investigation is still ongoing, the AAIB special bulletin has called into question the validity of  David Ibbotson, the 59-year-old pilot's licence.  The AAIB says that Ibbotson had a private pilots licence, which meant he could only carry passengers for free or on a cost-sharing basis and not for monetary gain. The rules also state that there must be a legitimate reason for making the flight, not merely for transporting the passengers. 

Ibbotson flew the little Piper PA-46-310P Malibu from Cardiff to Nantes on 19th January with Emiliano Sala onboard.  The return was scheduled for 21st January 2019 and he arrived at the airport early to make the aircraft ready and refuel it.  

At 1836 footballer Sala arrived and passed through airport security, the aircraft then taxied out for
departure at 1906 local time.  According to documents, it should have been an easy visual flight rules journey on an almost direct route of 265 miles with a cruising altitude of 6,000 feet.

The aircraft took off from Runway 03 at Nantes Airport at 1915and then climbed to around 5,500 feet and continued as planned on its direct route to Cardiff.  The aircraft was 13 miles south of  the picturesque island of Guernsey when Ibbotson requested and was given approval to descend due to the weather conditions. 

The last radio contact with the aircraft was with Jersey Radar at 2012 hrs, when the pilot asked for
a further descent. The aircraft’s last recorded secondary radar point was at 2016:34 

The aircraft was made in 1984, at November 2018 it had flown 6,636 hours and the engine had operated for 1,195 hours since its last overhaul. It was in November that it had its 100-hour annual service. 

Following extensive searches, the aircraft wreckage was found underwater and from a remotely operated vehicle, the aircraft appears extensively damaged, and the main body of the aircraft was in three parts held together by electrical and flying control cables. The engine had disconnected from the cockpit area, and the rear section of the fuselage had broken away from the forward section adjacent to the trailing edge of the wing. 

In the report and from radar information it details how in the last section of the flight the pilot made a number of turns, climbs and descents and appeared to be turning back towards the Channel Islands when it was lost. 

A full report into the crash is expected to be released towards the end of the year and the AAIB is hoping to get more details of the pilot's licence and recently flight history and more weather and radar information.