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Flight Organiser Convicted Over Death Of Emiliano Sala And Pilot

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Flight Organiser Convicted Over Death Of Emiliano Sala And Pilot

The organiser of the crashed flight which killed footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson has been convicted.

David Henderson, 67, of Hotham, East Riding of Yorkshire, was found guilty after a trial at Cardiff Crown Court today (Thursday 28 October).

Henderson was found guilty. Credit: Alamy
Henderson was found guilty. Credit: Alamy

The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala crashed into the English Channel on the evening of 21 January 2019, killing the striker and pilot Ibbotson, 59.


It took the jury of seven men and five women seven and a half hours to convict Henderson, the aircraft operator, who the trial heard had arranged the flight with football agent William 'Willie' McKay.

He had asked Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday with his wife in Paris.

Ibbotson, who regularly flew for him, did not hold a commercial pilot's licence, a qualification to fly at night, and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

The jury heard how just moments after finding out the plane had gone down, Henderson texted a number of people telling them to stay silent warning it would 'open a can of worms'.


The father-of-three and former RAF officer admitted in court he had feared an investigation into his business dealings.

Prosecutor Martin Goudie QC said Henderson had been 'reckless or negligent' in the way he operated the plane, putting his business above the safety of passengers by using an authorised plane and hiring pilots neither qualified nor competent to complete the flights.

Goudie said Henderson had created a culture of breaching the air navigation regulations among the pilots he hired.

Sala was moving to Cardiff City from FC Nantes. Credit: Alamy
Sala was moving to Cardiff City from FC Nantes. Credit: Alamy

The owner of the plane, Fay Keely, had told Henderson not to allow Ibbotson to pilot the plane again after being contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) about two airspace infringements he had committed.

Despite this Henderson allowed Ibbotson to continue flying, and in a message to the pilot said: "We both have an opportunity to make money out of the business model but not if we upset clients or draw the attention of the CAA."

Henderson did not have a Foreign Carrier Permit (FCP) which was needed to fly passengers in the American plane, or an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), which he was required to obtain.

And during the trial Goudie accused Henderson of lying in his statements to investigators, and of running a 'cowboy outfit' after questioning the defendant over why he failed to keep basic information on his pilots.


But Stephen Spence QC, defending, said his client's actions were 'purely a paperwork issue' and had not led to a likelihood of danger.

He said his client knew Ibbotson - who had been flying for decades and had accumulated around 3,500 flying miles - was an experienced pilot.

And that Ibbotson, as pilot of that flight, had been in charge of ensuring their safe passage home.

He told the court the only difference between a commercial licence and the private licence held by Ibbotson was whether you could carry passengers for money or not, and not about ability.


Henderson had already admitted a separate offence of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.

Judge Mr Justice Foxton granted Henderson bail to return to be sentenced for both offences on 12 November.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: SPORT, UK News, Football

Jake Massey
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