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Pilot who organised flight that killed footballer Emiliano Sala is found GUILTY at court

The businessman who organised the flight that crashed and killed footballer Emiliano Sala has been found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

David Henderson, 67, from the East Riding of Yorkshire, was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday morning.  

28-year-old footballer Sala and pilot David Ibbotson, 59, died when the private plane they were flying in fell into the English Channel in January 2019. 

67-year-old Henderson, a pilot himself, was unavailable to fly the plane that crashed and killed Mr Sala because he was on holiday in Paris with his wife.

Mr Ibbotson, who Henderson hired instead, did not hold a commercial pilot's licence, was not allowed to fly at night, and had an expired rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu aircraft.

Henderson had been accused of running a 'cowboy outfit' after he admitted not keeping basic information on the pilots he employed. 

Emiliano Sala, pictured, was onboard the chartered aircraft flown by Mr Ibbotson when it crashed into the English Channel while he was being transported from his former club Nantes to Cardiff, where he had just signed a multi-million-pound deal

David Henderson, 67, was found guilty over the deadly plane crash. Henderson recruited fellow pilot David Ibbotson, 59, as a last-minute stand-in to fly the plane from France to Cardiff airport

Sala was involved in a multimillion-pound transfer deal to Cardiff City FC from Nantes FC in 2019 and was travelling between the two clubs at the time of his death. 

A plane carrying the 28-year-old striker and pilot David Ibbotson went into the sea near Guernsey on the evening of January 21, 2019. 

The prosecution had alleged Henderson was 'reckless and negligent' in allowing Mr Ibbotson to fly because he was not qualified to fly at night and did not have a commercial pilot's licence. 

Although Henderson admits he knew Mr Ibbotson only had a private pilot's licence (PPL), he told Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigators and the police that he was not aware the pilot did not have a certificate to fly after dark.

However, text messages between himself and Mr Ibbotson in the months leading up to the crash show them discussing the pilot's lack of a night-time flying qualification and Henderson encourages him to get it to 'make it official'. 

Jurors later heard that messages sent by Henderson after the crash included telling aircraft engineer David Smith to 'keep very quiet', adding: 'Need to be very careful. Opens up a whole can of worms.'