Pilot admitted he was ‘a bit rusty’ before ill-fated flight with footballer

The pilot flying the missing private plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala told friends he was “a bit rusty” just a day before take-off.

David Ibbotson – who police identified as the pilot on Wednesday night – made the admission on Facebook before departing from Nantes with the new Cardiff City signing on-board.

The pilot, from Crowle, near Scunthorpe, tagged himself at the French city’s airport on Saturday before replying to comments the following day, in which he said he was “a bit rusty with the ILS (instrument landing system)”.

When a friend questioned whether that was really the case, Mr Ibbotson replied: “You wanna bet, a little on the high side hehe, better than on the low side.”
The conversation emerged as rescue workers resumed the search for the aircraft, which has not been seen since it vanished from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.

Police have said it has become a recovery operation rather than a rescue mission.

In a statement on Twitter on Thursday morning, Guernsey Police said officers were searching the north coasts of Jersey and the Cherbourg Peninsula, as well as the small islands of Burhou, the Casquets, Alderney and Sark.

The force said it would decide whether to continue the search later on Thursday.

Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman has admitted that it “does not look good” for Sala, who signed for a club-record £15m last week and was on his way to Wales when the plane disappeared.

He told Sky Sports News: “We continue to collect data to try to understand what happened from this end. Everything points towards a tragic accident, it really does.

“We will continue to hope and pray. But we also have to be realistic, it does not look good at this very moment.”

He said the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane was not organised by the club, with Sala making his own travel arrangements via football agent Mark McKay.


The Argentine striker reportedly voiced fears about the safety of the plane in a WhatsApp audio message he sent to friends while on board.


In the message, a voice is heard saying: “I am here in the plane that seems is about to fall to pieces. I’m scared.”

Mr McKay told Sky Sports News: “I can confirm that when Emiliano made myself and his agent Meissa N’Diaye aware that he wished to travel back to Nantes following his medical and signing on Friday, I began to look into arranging a private flight to take him to Nantes on Saturday morning.

“That evening, it was confirmed a plane was available to fly Emiliano on Saturday which could remain in Nantes until he was due to return to Cardiff.

“I have been in contact with officials from Cardiff and the player’s agent over these difficult past few days and will continue to do so.”

Mr Mckay added that the plane was “not owned in any way or part by either myself or any member of my family”.

Nantes supporters have held vigils for Sala at his old home stadium in recent days, with his prolific goal-scoring record having made him a firm favourite on the terraces at the Ligue 1 side.

His former teammates are due to travel to Cardiff later on Thursday.









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