The pilot of Emiliano Sala’s plane told friends the plane was “shady” before the flight that killed the Argentine footballer, new audio has revealed.
Sala had just become Cardiff City’s then-Premier League record £15million haul from French club Nantes when the plane crashed in the English Channel, killing them both.
He was flown by David Ibbotson – a part-time pilot who had no license to carry fare-paying passengers and whose body was never found – to western France to bid farewell and pick up some business.
He flew to Nantes on Saturday January 19 and planned to return on Monday – the day of the accident.
Audio of a phone call to another pilot was obtained exclusively by the BBC, revealing for the first time the technical difficulties encountered by Ibbotson during the trip to France.
In it, he says he heard “a bang” during the flight and complained that he could smell “very faint fog” inside the 35-year-old Piper Malibu plane.
“I’m in the middle of the English Channel and ‘bang’,” Mr Ibbotson told his friend, Kevin Jones, of his flight to Nantes.
“I fly and then ‘boom’. I thought, ‘what’s wrong?’ So I put it all out there and checked my settings, everything was fine and it was still flying, but it caught your eye.”
He added: “This Malibu, once in a while, you kind of get a haze once in a while. You can feel it, very, very low all over the cell.”
Ibbotson, 59, said he also realized the Piper Malibu’s left brake pedal was not working after landing at Nantes Atlantique airport. “This plane has to go back to the hangar,” he told his friend.
The revelation comes as new footage shows the last moment the pair were seen alive.
In the footage, going through security at Nantes airport is the only time Emiliano Sala is seen with pilot David Ibbotson
Ahead of the flight back to Cardiff, Ibbotson added: “Normally I would have my life jacket between my seats, but tomorrow I will be wearing my life jacket.”
The footballer had also expressed his fears about the plane in a voice note sent to his closest friends as the plane left the runway at Nantes Atlantique airport.
The player told them “man, I’m scared” and that the plane he was on “looks like it’s falling apart”. “I don’t know if someone is going to look for me because they won’t find me,” Sala told friends of a potential accident.
Sala died in a plane crash off Alderney on January 21, 2019. He was a passenger on a Piper Malibu light aircraft flying from Nantes to Cardiff.
An initial three-day search covered 4,400 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) across the English Channel. Two subsequent private searches were launched, resulting in the discovery of the wreckage on February 3, 2019; Sala’s body was found four days later.