Pilot 'did not completely lose control' of Sala plane, aviation expert suggests

Pilot 'did not completely lose control' of Sala plane, aviation expert suggests
The pilot of the plane containing Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala may have had some degree of control of the flight as it crashed into the English Channel, according to an aviation expert.

The plane's pilot, Dave Ibbotson, is still missing after the wreckage of the Piper 46 Malibu plane was discovered near the Channel Island of Guernsey last week.

Sala's body was recovered and formally identified shortly afterwards, with Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan offering to pay for the body to be repatriated to his family in Argentina.

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Experts believe the flight was brought down by bad weather en route from Nantes to Cardiff as Ibbotson flew Sala from France to join up with his new club following his January transfer to the Premier League side.

READ MORE: ‘No words to describe how sad this is’: Football world reacts to confirmation of Sala’s death

RAF instructor David Learmount told UK newspaper The Times that he believed Ibbotson had some degree of control over the plane when it hit the water.

Learmount said the fact that the plane's wreckage was discovered in a relatively small area, rather than being spread across a wide radius, was a sign that the pilot had "not absolutely completely lost control." 

"Nobody dives an aircraft into the sea knowing they are diving the aircraft into the sea. You pull the nose up," he explained.

"It didn't enter the sea at high speed with its nose down.

"On light planes the ability to withstand icing is limited. We do know that not long before the aircraft went missing the pilot requested descent."

The request for descent could, Learmount suggested, be to avoid flying through heavy clouds, or because ice was forming on the plane's wings.

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The Air Accidents Investigation Branch confirmed that they had ceased their search for Ibbotson's body, and stated that the operation to recover the wreckage of the plane had been halted by bad weather.

Meanwhile, Ibbotson's daughter has set up a crowdfunding page to raise funds for a fresh search for her father, with a target of $388,800 (£300,000).