CARDIFF: The pilot of Emiliano Sala’s plane told friends the aircraft was “dodgy” before the flight that killed the Argentine footballer, it can be revealed.
A BBC investigation has come up with audio of David Ibbotson saying: “I’ll be wearing my life jacket” on the journey from France to Wales.
He told a friend he heard a “bang” on a previous flight. The plane crashed into the English Channel in 2019.
It comes as footage shows the last moment the pair were seen alive.
Sala had just become then Premier League side Cardiff City’s £15m record signing from French club Nantes when the plane crashed into the English Channel, killing them both.
He was flown by Mr Ibbotson – a part-time pilot who was not licensed to carry paying passengers and whose body has never been found – back to western France to say his goodbyes and collect some belongings.
He flew to Nantes on Saturday, January 19, and planned to return on the Monday – the day of the crash.
Audio of a telephone call to a fellow pilot has been exclusively obtained by the BBC, revealing the technical difficulties Mr Ibbotson had on the journey to France.
In it, he says he heard “a bang” during the flight and complained that he could feel a “very low mist” inside the 35-year-old Piper Malibu plane.
“I’m mid-Channel and ‘bang’,” Mr Ibbotson told friend, Kevin Jones, about his flight to Nantes.
“I’m flying along and then ‘boom’. I thought, ‘what’s wrong?’ So I put everything forward and checked my parameters, everything was good and it was still flying, but it got your attention.”
He added: “That Malibu, occasionally you’ve got like a mist every so often. You can feel it, very, very low throughout the airframe.”
Mr Ibbotson, 59, said he also realised the Piper Malibu’s left brake pedal wasn’t working after landing at Nantes Atlantique Airport. “This aircraft has got to go back in the hangar,” he told his friend.
The conversation was accidentally recorded and has since been obtained by the BBC’s Transfer: The Emiliano Sala Story podcast.
Ahead of the flight back to Cardiff, Mr Ibbotson added: “Normally I’d have my life jacket between my seats but tomorrow I’ll be wearing my life jacket.”