Emiliano Sala: Investigation launched over ‘legality of pilot’s licence’


Emiliano Sala made a club record deal to Cardiff City from Nantes for £15m before his disappearance. (Photo credit: Fabrizio Neitzke)

Investigators into the disappearance of Cardiff City player, Emiliano Sala say they are inspecting whether the player’s pilot had the correct licence.

Pilot David Ibbotson was the only other member on board the aircraft which went missing on Monday. Whether or not Mr Ibbotson’s licence is legal is set to be investigated.

The search for the Piper PA-46 Malibu aircraft carrying the two passengers had been formally called off on Thursday evening after the rescue had transitioned into a recovery mission.

Supporters from both Cardiff City and former club, Nantes have paid tribute to the 28-year-old since his disappearance over the English Channel on Monday evening.

A banner outside the Cardiff City Stadium read: “We never saw you play and never saw you score but Emiliano our beautiful bluebird we will love you forever more.”

Since the first announcements of Nantes winger Sala going missing while travelling to Cardiff to complete a transfer, there has been a development in the potential reasons for the plane’s disappearance.

A Civil Aviation Authority source said: “The issue of whether the trip was undertaken on a commercial basis and the level of the pilot’s qualification will be addressed by the investigation.

“But the priority right now is to find the aircraft and what happened to the people on board.”

Yesterday Guernsey Police released a statement about calling off the search. Harbour Master Captain, David Barker said: “My team have just met to review the search and rescue operation which has been underway since the plane disappeared on Monday night.

“Despite the best efforts of air and search assets from the Channel Islands, UK and France, which has covered an area of approximately 1,700 sq. miles – with a significant amount of this searched more than once – and having examined mobile phone data and satellite imagery, we have been unable to find any trace of the aircraft, the pilot or the passenger.

“There has been over 24 hours of continuous searching, with 80 hours combined flying time across three planes and five helicopters. Two lifeboats have also been involved, as well as assistance from various passing ships and fishing boats.

“We reviewed all the information available to us, as well as knowing what emergency equipment was on board, and have taken the difficult decision to end the search.

“The chances of survival at this stage are extremely remote.

“Next of kin have been informed of this development, and my thoughts go out to the family of the pilot and passenger at this most difficult of times.”

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