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"What sort of cowboy outfit were you running?"

Tuesday 26 October 2021

"What sort of cowboy outfit were you running?"


The organiser of the flight that ditched near Alderney, killing footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, was asked if he ran “cowboy outfit” after admitting in court that he did not know which qualifications his pilots had.

David Henderson (67) denies endangering the safety of the Piper Malibu aircraft, which plummeted into the sea in January 2019, travelling from Nantes to Sala’s new club in Cardiff.

Earlier in the case, which opened last week, Cardiff Crown Court heard that Mr Henderson had been told that Mr Ibbotson’s flying was “all over the place”.

The prosecution, led by Martin Goudie QC, also argue that other communications show Mr Henderson knew Mr Ibbotson did not have a commercial licence to fly.

One message sent to Mr Ibbotson said Mr Henderson did not want to “draw the attention of the CAA [Civil Aviation Authority, ed.].”

After Mr Henderson admitted he wasn’t aware which qualifications his pilots had, Mr Goudie asked: “What sort of cowboy outfit were you running at this time that you didn't know if your pilot had his ratings or not?"

On the CAA message, he asked: "Isn't the true situation that you didn't want anyone looking at how you were running these flights because you knew you were running them illegally?"

To this, Mr Henderson replied that “there’s probably some element of that, yes.”

Mr Goudie also suggested that Mr Henderson acted out of “financial interest”.

The trial continued yesterday, with Mr Henderson telling a jury that football agent Willy McKay may have let unqualified Mr Ibbotson fly Sala, when asked by defence lawyer Stephen Spence whether Mr McKay would have cared about his lack of qualifications.

"I don't know if he wouldn't have cared, but as I say, his preoccupation was to get a pilot. I think he would have gone ahead with the flight anyway,” said Mr Henderson.

Mr Henderson had been due to face another charge – attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorisation – but pleaded guilty when the trial opened last Monday.

The trial continues today.

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