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The businessman who organized the condemned flight that crashed and killed soccer player Emiliano Sala has been found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
David Henderson, 67, of the East Riding of Yorkshire, was found guilty in Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday morning.
Footballer Sala, 28, and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, were killed when the private plane they were flying in fell into the English Channel in January 2019.wikipedia
Henderson, 67, who was also a pilot, was unavailable to pilot the plane that crashed and killed Sala because he was on vacation in Paris with his wife.
Ibbotson, whom Henderson hired in his place, did not have a commercial pilot license, could not fly at night, and had an expired rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft.
Judge Foxton granted Henderson bail to be re-sentenced for both crimes on November 12.
David Henderson was found guilty over the deadly plane crash
Sala was involved in a multi-million dollar transfer deal to Cardiff City FC from Nantes FC in 2019 and was traveling between the two clubs at the time of his death.
A plane carrying 28-year-old forward and pilot David Ibbotson fell into the sea near Guernsey on the night of January 21, 2019.
The jury, consisting of seven men and five women, took seven and a half hours to convict Henderson, the aircraft operator, who according to the trial had organized the flight with soccer agent William ‘Willie’ McKay.
Henderson had been accused of wearing a “cowboy outfit” after admitting that he did not keep basic information about the pilots he employed.
The prosecution had alleged that Henderson was “reckless and negligent” in allowing Ibbotson to fly because he was not qualified to fly at night and did not have a commercial pilot license.
Although Henderson admits that he knew Ibbotson only had a private pilot license (PPL), he told Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigators and police that he did not know that the pilot did not have a certificate to fly after dark. .
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David Smith to ‘be very quiet’, adding: ‘You have to be very careful.’ He opens a whole can of worms.
However, text messages between him and Mr. Ibbotson in the months leading up to the crash show them discussing the pilot’s lack of a night flight qualification and Henderson encourages him to “make it official.”
Jurors later heard that messages sent by Henderson after the accident included telling aeronautical engineer David Smith to ‘be very quiet’, adding: ‘You have to be very careful.’ He opens a whole can of worms.
The father of three and a former RAF officer later admitted in court that he feared an investigation into his business.
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 a licensed aircraft and hiring neither qualified nor competent pilots to complete the flights.
Goudie said Henderson had created a culture of non-compliance with air navigation regulations among the pilots he hired.
The plane’s owner, Fay Keely, had told Henderson not to allow Ibbotson to fly the plane again after being contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) about two airspace violations he had committed.
Despite this, Henderson allowed Ibbotson to keep flying, and in a message to the pilot he said: “We both have the opportunity to make money from the business model, but not if we upset customers or get the attention of the CAA.”
Henderson did not have a Foreign Carrier Permit (FCP) that was needed to carry passengers on the US aircraft, nor an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), which he needed to obtain.
And during the trial, Mr. Goudie accused Henderson of lying in his statements to investigators and wearing a ‘cowboy outfit’ after questioning the defendant as to why he did not keep basic information about the pilots from him.
In his closing speech, he claimed that Henderson ran an “incompetent, undocumented and dishonest organization.”
But Stephen Spence QC, defending, said his client’s actions were “purely a matter of paperwork” and had not led to a likelihood of danger.
He said his client knew that Ibbotson, who had been flying for decades and had accumulated about 3,500 flying miles, was an experienced pilot.
And that Mr. Ibbotson, as the pilot of that flight, had taken it upon himself to ensure his safe passage home.
He told the court that the only difference between a business license and the private license held by Mr. Ibbotson was whether or not passengers could be transported for money, and not for capacity.
Henderson also argued on the stand that he had telephoned Ms. Keely after she prohibited Mr. Ibbotson from flying and convinced her to let him fly again.
Ms. Keely said that she does not remember that call.
Henderson, from Hotham in the East Riding of Yorkshire, had already admitted to a separate offense of attempting to fire a passenger without a valid permit or authorization.
Kate Staples, General Counsel for the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “ Our thoughts remain with the families and friends who were affected by this accident in January 2019.
‘Aviation security relies on the integrity of everyone involved in the industry. Illegal and unsafe activity like Mr Henderson’s is unacceptable and the UK Civil Aviation Authority will always seek to prosecute illegal activities. ‘
David Henderson Quick and Facts
- David Henderson found guilty of endangering safety of aircraft at Cardiff Court
- 67-year-old arranged private plane for footballer Emiliano Sala in January 2019
- The aircraft fell into English Channel, killing Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, 59