Eerie new underwater photographs on Emiliano Sala’s doomed plane 220ft down on the bed of the Channel were released today as it was revealed its part-time pilot desperately tried to pull up moments before the crash and had made ‘basic errors’ before departing.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has released its interim report into the accident that disappeared off the coast of Guernsey on January 21.
Investigators have said the plane hit the sea and sank to the bottom within 30 metres of losing radar contact after pilot David Ibbotson, from Humberside, desperately tried to ‘climb rapidly’.
The report says the Piper Malibu was ‘destroyed’ in the crash and the plane is split into three parts 21 miles off the Channel Islands with the engines thrown from the cockpit, with the wings smashed and the tail and fin missing completely.
The AAIB says it needs to do more work to find the cause of the crash but have already found that the plane failed to fly on a straight path between France and Wales, began to meander and then the pilot suddenly tried to pull up before the crash.
MailOnline has previously revealed that the plane’s instruments are prone to freezing and could have given Mr Ibbotson a false altitude reading.
Cardiff City’s new £15million striker was found dead in the plane but the pilot has not been found with his family raising £250,000 to continue the search.
Ahead of its publication new documents from France have emerged about Mr Ibbotson, a gas engineer by trade, and show he made ‘basic errors’ in his pre-flight preparations.
Mr Ibbotson was also not allowed to take paying passengers because he only had a private licence – not a commercial one – and didn’t have the qualifications to fly in bad weather but took their plane into a winter storm.
These new pictures showing the wreck of Emiliano Sala’s doomed plane were released by the Air Accident Investigation Branch today
The plane remains in the bed of the Channel 220ft down and is unlikely to ever be recovered
The aircraft hit a winter storm over the Channel and some experts have suggested that the instruments may have frozen
An overhead view of the crash scene shows how the plane hit the water around 30 metres after losing radar contact
This is the last picture of the Piper Malibu on the Tarmac at Nantes Airport ahead of its doomed flight on January 21
Today the pilot’s flight plan emerged and contains ‘basic mistakes’ including a problem of the plane’s registration and limits on the pilots ability to fly in bad weather
David Ibbotson (left) was also not allowed to take paying passengers because he only had a private licence – not a commercial one – but was still given the job to ferry £15m footballer Emiliano Sala (right) across the Channel
The AAIB’s interim’s report has revealed that the plane and its pilot had the right to fly private trips, not commercial flights for profit.
It says: ‘N264DB [the plane’s registration] was registered in the USA and could not be used for commercial operations without permission from the FAA and CAA.
‘At the time of writing there was no evidence that such permission had been sought or granted. To fly an aircraft registered in the USA between EASA Member States, a pilot must operate using the privileges of an FAA licence.’
The report said the pilot had an FAA private pilot’s licence – but not a commercial one.
The report continued: ‘A PPL (private licence) does not allow a pilot to carry passengers for reward; to do so requires a commercial licence.
‘The basis on which the passenger was being carried on N264DB has not yet been established but, previously, the pilot had carried passengers on the basis of ‘cost sharing’.’
To carry out a ‘cost sharing’ flight however, the pilot must contribute to the ‘actual direct costs of the flight being conducted.
The report added: ‘His logbook and licence were not recovered from the aircraft, and the ratings on his licences and their validity dates have not yet been established.
‘If the flight was planned to be operated on a cost sharing basis, FAA rules regarding pro rata costs and a common purpose were applicable.’
The report said further investigations would now be carried out.
It added: ‘The investigation continues to examine all pertinent operational, technical, organisational and human factors which might have contributed to the accident.
‘In particular, work will be undertaken to refine the analysis of the radar information to try and understand the last few minutes of the flight and assess the possible implications of the weather conditions in the area at the time of the accident.’
The report stated that the aircraft took off and initially climbed to 5,500 ft. Later, the pilot requested a descent to remain in ‘Visual Meteorological Conditions’.
It reads: ‘The last radio contact with the aircraft was with Jersey Radar at 2012 hrs, when the pilot asked for a further descent.
‘The aircraft’s last recorded secondary radar point was at 2016:34 hrs… The wreckage of N264DB was subsequently found on the seabed about 30 metres from the position of the last secondary radar point recorded by the radar at Guernsey’
Weather reports on the night of the crash show a cold front coming in with isolated heavy showers.
The report said the plane had been made in 1984, and had flown 6,636 hrs and the engine had operated for 1,195 hrs since overhaul.
Following publication of the report, a spokesman for the AAIB said: ‘The Special Bulletin includes validated factual information gathered in the early stages of our investigation.
‘It also explains the aircraft permissions and pilot licencing requirements relevant to a US-registered aircraft carrying out a cross-border flight within Europe with a passenger on board.
‘We have gathered evidence from radar, weather reports, video of the aircraft on the seabed and interviews with witnesses. Some operational aspects are yet to be determined, such as the validity of the pilot’s licence and ratings.
‘Our priority now is to go through the evidence, much of which is extensive and complex, so we can piece together what happened between the aircraft being lost from radar and it coming to rest on the sea bed. This will help us understand the potential causes of the accident.
‘We continue to speak to the families of the pilot and passenger to keep them updated on the progress of our investigation. If any urgent safety issues arise during our investigation, we will issue a further Special Bulletin. When our investigation has concluded, we will publish a final report.’
Images uploaded to social media by Argentine Fox Sports journalist Christian Martin appear to show that in his flight plan Mr Ibbotson, a boiler engineer by trade, made a number of ‘basic errors’ before taking off from Nantes airport in western France.
Mr Ibbotson, from Scunthorpe, gained his private pilot’s licence in the US but does not have a commercial licence for paid flights
This is the wreckage of Emiliano Sala’s plane on the bottom of the Channel off Guernsey in an image released when it was found two weeks ago
One image shows how Ibbotson apparently incorrectly filled in the plane’s licence number on the form, writing N246DB instead of N264DB.
The pilot also reportedly used Visual Flight Rules (VFR) instead of Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
This means his qualifications only allowed him to fly at night if conditions were clear without any bad weather.
But the plane flew into a storm over the Channel and it is feared the instruments froze before the aircraft crashed into the sea.
Mr Martin claims the paperwok shows Mr Ibbotson accepted ‘the disregard of flying with instruments, key to flying between clouds without visibility. That night there were many clouds and a cold snap over the English Channel’.
Martin described the mistakes as ‘basic errors’.
In order for pilots to fly VFR, they cannot fly through clouds and in some types of airspace they have to be able to see the ground.
Under VFR, pilots are responsible for seeing other aircraft and avoiding collisions and it requires a minimum standard of weather conditions to be present, known as visual meteorological conditions (VMC), to be allowed to fly.
When the operation of an aircraft under VFR is not safe, because the visual cues outside the aircraft are obscured by weather, instrument flight rules (IFR) must be used instead.
Martin also appeared to confirm MailOnline’s exclusive that Mr Ibbotson was not authorised to take paying passengers because of his private pilot’s licence.
Police are pictured recovering Sala’s body from the sea after the footballer died of head and trunk injuries in the crash
A private search is underway to find Ibbotson’s body with his family having raised over £240,000 to pay for it.
Investigators removed Mr Sala’s body from the Piper Malibu N264DB a fortnight ago and ended their attempts to recover the aircraft wreckage because of poor weather.
Pilot David Ibbotson (pictured with his wife, Nora) was carrying the Cardiff City star to his new club when the crash occurred
His body was brought to Portland, Dorset, by the Geo Ocean III boat, and taken on a stretcher to an ambulance, before being transferred to the coroner.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said the families of both men had been kept informed of progress, and identification of the body was a matter for the police and coroner for Dorset.
The aircraft remains 67 metres underwater 21 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the English Channel.
The remains of the plane were discovered two weeks ago. It had disappeared on January 21 as it travelled from Nantes in France to Cardiff.
The AAIB said previously that the work of the ROVs has been hampered by the difficult tidal conditions around the Channel Islands.
The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.
An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey’s harbour master David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were ‘extremely remote’
The Piper Malibu carrying Sala from Nantes to Cardiff vanished over Alderney on January 21 and plunged into one of the Channel’s most perilous areas, known as Hurd’s Deep
The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world.
Mr Mearns and his team located the aircraft within two hours of starting their search.
He told the Press Association the discovery had been so quick because the team had been looking for a static object rather than in a dynamic environment searching for survivors.
‘No-one should walk away with the impression that the Coastguard and also the Channel Islands air search did anything other than a professional job,’ he said.
Cardiff had signed Sala, a 28-year-old Argentinian striker, for a club record £15 million.
It has emerged that Nantes has demanded payment from Cardiff for the player’s transfer.
It is understood Cardiff received a letter from Nantes on Tuesday, in which the French Ligue 1 club threatened to take legal action if the first scheduled payment of the fee is not made within 10 days.
It is believed Cardiff have been left surprised by the demand, considering the circumstances and the timing, and would rather the investigation into the tragedy is completed first.