Businessman who organised fatal Sala flight jailed for 18 months

The businessman who organised a flight that crashed, killing footballer Emiliano Sala, has been jailed for 18 months for endangering the safety of an aircraft.

David Henderson, 67, was convicted by a majority verdict of 10 to two at Cardiff Crown Court last month.

The plane carrying 28-year-old Sala crashed into the English Channel on the evening of 21 January 2019, killing the striker and pilot David Ibbotson, 59.

The player had been travelling to his new club, Cardiff City.

A portrait of Emiliano Sala is displayed at the front of St David's Cathedral, Cardiff. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 21, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Cardiff. Photo credit should read: Jacob King/PA Wire

Emiliano Sala had just signed for Cardiff from French club Nantes for £15m when he died

Henderson, a father-of-three and former RAF officer, had arranged the flight with football agent William ‘Willie’ McKay.

He had asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was away on holiday in Paris with his wife.

Mr Ibbotson, who regularly flew for him, did not hold a commercial pilot’s licence, a qualification to fly at night, and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

Just moments after finding out the plane had gone down, Henderson texted a number of people telling them to stay silent – warning it would “open a can of worms”.

He admitted in court he feared an investigation into his business dealings.

A lawyer representing the Sala family welcomed Henderson’s convictions in a statement and said they hope the Civil Aviation Authority will make sure that “illegal flights of this kind are stopped”.

“The actions of David Henderson are only one piece in the puzzle of how the plane David Ibbotson was illegally flying came to crash into the sea on 21 January 2019,” said Daniel Machover.

“We still do not know the key information about the maintenance history of the aircraft and all the factors behind the carbon monoxide poisoning revealed in August 2019.”