THE owner of the Piper Malibu plane which crashed into the English Channel near Guernsey on 21 January 2019 as it flew from Nantes in France to Cardiff killing footballer Emiliano Sala, has told the inquest into his death that she banned the pilot, David Ibbotson, from flying it six months before the tragedy took place.
The inquest, which is taking place at Bournemouth Coroner’s Court, has heard that Fay Keely explicitly requested that David Ibbotson no longer pilot the Piper Malibu after discovering that Mr. Ibbotson was responsible for two airspace infringements on the same day.
The inquest also heard that the Piper Malibu was purchased by Ms. Keely in August 2015 following the death of her father who had begun the process of purchasing the aircraft.
The plane was registered in the US through ‘Southern Aircraft Consultancy Incorporated’ who were the owners of the plane, but purely for the purpose of securing registration.
Cool Flourish Limited, Ms. Keely’s family company, was registered as the operator of the aircraft.
The inquest heard previously that the operator was defined as “the person with day-to-day control of the aircraft.”
But Ms. Keely told the inquest that, following the purchase, she never in fact saw the aircraft and its day-to-day management was provided by an aircraft consultant called David Henderson.
Ms. Keely said that an informal arrangement with Mr. Henderson meant that, on her behalf, he managed the plane, made sure that the maintenance was up to date and did any repair work that needed to be undertaken.
Mr. Henderson would also oversee the hiring out of the Piper Malibu to other parties.
The inquest was told that the Piper Malibu couldn’t be used for a period of time from late-2017 through to January 2018 for £20,000 worth of “significant” repair and maintenance work.
The inquest then heard that Ms. Keely contacted Mr. Henderson in early July 2018, six months before the tragedy, and made known her concerns about Mr. Ibbotson.
Ms. Keely told the inquest “I was not happy and not confident the aircraft was within Mr Ibbotson’s capabilities…I said he shouldn’t be flying it,”.
In a series of emails exchanged between Ms. Keely and Mr. Henderson after news of Mr. Ibbotson’s airspace infringements, Ms. Keely wrote: “I think it best if he doesn’t pilot the Piper again… this doesn’t give me much confidence in his care of the aircraft”.
Ms. Keely was then asked by Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, what the response from Mr. Henderson had been, she replied: “Multiple expletives!! D.”
Following this, Ms. Keely then found out that Mr. Ibbotson had also flown a relative of hers in the Piper Malibu in August 2018, this was because Mr. Henderson hadn’t been available to pilot the aircraft himself.
Ms. Keely also told the inquest that Mr. Henderson had supplied her with the names of four or five commercial pilots who would fly the plane. Mr. Ibbotson, who only had a private pilot’s licence, did not appear on this list.
When asked if she knew any of the details regarding Emiliano Sala’s final flight, she replied “I was not aware of any circumstances in relation to that flight whatsoever”.
The inquest also heard that carbon monoxide levels detected in Emiliano Sala’s blood showed he would’ve been unconscious when the planed crashed into the sea off of Guernsey.
David Ibbotson’s body has never been recovered.