Plane operator was warned not to use unqualified pilot in crash off Guernsey

Credit: ITV Channel TV

The owner of the plane which crashed, killing professional football player Emiliano Sala, said she ordered the pilot, who also died, not to fly the aircraft, a court heard.

Fay Keely said she emailed the plane's operator David Henderson, banning the unqualified stand-in pilot David Ibbotson.

67-year-old Henderson is accused of endangering the safety of the aircraft, which came down over the English Channel in stormy weather on its way from France to Britain in January 2019.

The plane - a single engine Piper Malibu - was owned by a trust, but hired by Henderson.

Trust director Fay Keely said she became aware of Mr Ibbotson after he was involved in two breaches of Civil Aviation Authority rules six months before the crash.

Emiliano Sala was on his way to join Cardiff City Credit: PA Images

In an email to Henderson in July 2018, she said: "As this is now two incidents involving David Ibbotson both being picked the CAA I think it would be best if he was not asked to pilot the Malibu again.

"I appreciate this limits the available pilots but it does not give me much confidence in his care of the aircraft."

Ms Keely told the court that Henderson was in charge of choosing the pilots for flights when the plane was rented out as she was "unaware" of the qualifications they needed.

She said she did not know Henderson was continuing to use Mr Ibbotson other than for one flight when he flew a member of her family as a last minute replacement.

David Henderson arrives at Cardiff Crown Court Credit: Jacob King/PA

Asked if she had changed her mind about allowing Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane again in future, Ms Keely said: "No, but as far as I was concerned David Ibbotson was not to fly the aircraft."

Ms Keely said she only learned of the flights to and from France following the tragedy when she received a text from David Henderson.

The plane's engineer, David Smith, told the jury he learned of the accident after receiving a text from Mr Henderson saying: "Malibu gone missing on way back from France."

Mr Smith then received a follow-up message, which said: "Don't say a word to anyone."

The following morning there was another text, saying: "Call Urgent. Malibu gone down in Channel."

The Piper Malibu aircraft flown in the crash Credit: PA/AAIB

The court heard Henderson was initially arrested on suspicion of manslaughter when his home was searched and his phone was seized where messages were downloaded.

He was later charged by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Henderson of Hotham, East Yorkshire, denies endangering an aircraft by being reckless or negligent by hiring Mr Ibbotson who he knew to be unqualified.

The charge states Henderson allegedly organised the flights knowing David Ibbotson, did not have a commercial pilot's licence; and/or Ibbotson's rating to fly the type of aircraft involved had expired; and/or bad weather was forecast and he was not competent to fly in it.

He has admitted a separate charge that he was the operator when his plane took payment for Sala to fly "without permission or authorisation" from outside Britain.

The trial continues at Cardiff Crown Court.