LONDON — The pilot of the single-engine aircraft that carried the Argentine soccer player Emiliano Sala was not licensed to fly the plane, which plunged into the English Channel last year, killing both, U.K. investigators said Friday.
In its final report over the Jan 21, 2019 crash, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said that neither the pilot, David Ibbotson, nor the Piper Malibu plane had the required licenses or permissions to operate commercially.
It said that the plane broke up while being flown too fast for its design limits during bad weather and that the 59-year-old pilot was likely affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Investigators said Ibbotson had no training for night flights and a lack of recent practice in relying only on cockpit instruments to control a plane.
“Control of the aircraft was lost during a manually flown turn, and the aircraft descended rapidly accelerating,” said Geraint Herbert, the investigator in charge. “The aircraft rolled to the left and there was an abrupt nose-up control input, at a speed well above the maximum permitted for such an input.”
Herbert said the resulting loads on the plane were “excessive” and caused the aircraft to "break-up in flight."
Investigators also concluded that the plane entered the sea upside down and that the impact was "not survivable".
They also revealed that the pilot had informed a number of individuals about four potential problems with the aircraft during the outbound flight from Cardiff to the French city of Nantes two days earlier.
After signing for Cardiff City for 15 million pounds on Jan. 19, 2019, Sala had flown back to France to say goodbye to his former team-mates.
The body of Sala was recovered two weeks after the crash. Ibbotson's body has not been found.
The Associated Press