The plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala split apart in the sky as its pilot lost control during a manual turn made at too high a speed over the Channel Islands, a new report has found.
The conclusion came in the final report released today by the Air Accident Investigation Branch, which also said David Ibbotson was suspected to be suffering carbon monoxide poisoning and not properly licensed to pilot the flight on 21 January.
Investigators said the aim of their report was to look for the cause of the fatal crash just off the coast of Alderney, but not to attribute blame.
The Piper Malibu plane carrying Sala was flying to Cardiff Airport, as part of a transfer from his old team Nantes to Premier League team Cardiff City FC.
But at 20:16, in what was believed to be a manoeuvre to avoid poor weather, the aircraft was lost from radar and struck the sea 22 nautical miles north-north-west of Guernsey.
Video: Geraint Herbert, the AAIB's lead investigator, explaining the findings of the report.
Overall, three factors were given as to why the crash happened: the pilot's loss of control, the airbrush breaking up because of the turn being done at speeds "significantly in excess of its design", and the pilot being affected from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
"This was a tragic accident with fatal consequences. As we publish our final report today, our thoughts are with the families of Mr Sala and Mr Ibbotson," Crispin Orr, Chief Inspector of Air Accidents, Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said.
"A team of highly experienced investigators has been working to examine all aspects of the flight in order to understand the factors which may have caused or contributed to the accident. Today we have made important safety recommendations which, if fully implemented, would significantly reduce the risk of a recurrence."
Pictured: Wreckage of the aircraft was found following the crash.
He continued: “Routine maintenance is vital but cannot eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide leaks completely. Equipping aircraft with devices that provide warning of the presence of this odourless, colourless and lethal gas, would enable pilots to take potentially lifesaving action.
"We are therefore calling for the regulators to make it mandatory for piston engine aircraft, such as the one involved in this accident, to carry an active CO warning device.
“The chartering of aircraft that are not licensed for commercial transport – so called ‘grey charters’ – is putting lives at risk. We welcome the Civil Aviation Authority’s efforts to stop this practice through their ‘Legal to Fly’ campaign and other interventions.”
Safety action has been taken by the Civil Aviation Authority to raise awareness of the risk associated with unlicensed charter flights. Safety action has also been taken by the engine manufacturer to improve the guidance given to personnel undertaking inspections of exhaust systems.
Five Safety Recommendations have been made in this report, one of which was a suggested to manufacturers to include CO detectors in their aircraft going forward. Others include additional in-service inspections of exhaust systems and the maintenance of flight crew licensing records.
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