David Henderson, the businessman who organised the flight that crashed, killing footballer Emiliano Sala, has been found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
Henderson, 67, was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two.
The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala crashed into the English Channel on the evening of 21 January 2019, killing the striker and pilot David Ibbotson, 59.
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”.
Henderson had arranged the flight with football agent William ‘Willie’ McKay.
He had asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday in Paris with his wife.
Mr 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 father-of-three and former RAF officer admitted in court he feared an investigation into his business dealings.
He faces maximum sentences of five years imprisonment for endangering the aircraft and two years for the lesser charge of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation.
Fay Keely, who owned the plane, had told Henderson not to allow Mr Ibbotson to pilot it, after being contacted by the Civil Aviation Authority over two airspace infringements he had committed.
However, Henderson continued to allow him to fly, with prosecutor Martin Goudie QC telling the court he had created a culture of breaching air navigation rules with the pilots he hired.
He was accused of running a “cowboy outfit” and failing to keep basic information on his pilots.
But Stephen Spence QC, defending, said his client did not act recklessly and his actions were “purely a paperwork issue”.
He said his client knew Mr Ibbotson, who had been flying for decades and had accumulated around 3,500 flying miles, was an experienced pilot.
He told the court the only difference between a commercial licence and the private licence held by Mr Ibbotson was whether you could carry passengers for money or not, and not about ability.
Henderson has been granted bail and will return for sentencing on 12 November.
Source: Read Full Article