Willie McKay is facing serious new questions over the death of Emiliano Sala following the findings of an official report into the plane crash that killed the striker.
A special bulletin on the tragedy published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) on Monday indicated the pilot who flew Sala, Dave Ibbotson, would only have been allowed to do so had the pair shared the cost of the trip between them.
McKay, who helped broker Sala’s £15 million transfer to Cardiff City from Nantes, confirmed last month he organised the flight in question and that his usual pilot, Dave Henderson, had paid the landing fees and fuel.
He went further in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph last week in which he said his own agent son had “paid for” previous private-jet trips related to the sale of Sala to the Premier League club.
But McKay did not respond to requests for comment on whether he knew if the cost of the player’s January 21 journey over the English Channel had been shared with Ibbotson, who died with £23,400 worth of county court judgments against him.
That was after the AAIB confirmed the part-time gas engineer did not possess a commercial licence, only a private one, which prevented him carrying passengers for reward.
According to Monday’s report, Ibbotson could have legitimately flown Sala on what is called a “cost-sharing” basis, an exemption used by pilots to reduce the cost of gaining flying experience by splitting travel expenses with any passengers.
Were those rules deemed to have been broken, it could have serious consequences for the McKays and Nantes – for whom they were acting – with Cardiff stood ready to launch a negligence claim against them.
McKay has repeatedly insisted he had nothing to do with choosing the pilot, claiming he asked Henderson to make the necessary arrangements. Henderson has yet to make any comment on this.
But one aviation expert told the Telegraph it would still have been “totally negligent” of McKay if Ibbotson was shown to have been insufficiently qualified.
The expert, who did not wish to be named, said: “How much is Sala worth? And you don’t do any due diligence before that? Oh, come on.”
Claiming that even if no rules were broken, the flight should never have taken place, the expert added: “The whole idea of taking an asset like Sala, who’s worth an awful lot of money, in a light airplane like this, at night, with a pilot who didn’t have commercial qualifications, is bonkers – utterly, utterly bonkers.”
Cardiff said in a statement on Monday they had “grave concerns that questions still remain over the validity of the pilot’s licence and rating to undertake such a journey, as identified in the bulletin”.