Cardiff and Air Charter Association call for action against illegal flights following Emiliano Sala plane crash

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Emiliano Sala became Cardiff’s record signing on January 19, but then died in a plane crash over the English Channel two days later

Cardiff and the Air Charter Association have called for urgent action against illegal flights following the plane crash which led to the death of Emiliano Sala.
Sala was flying to Cardiff in January following his transfer from French side Nantes when the Piper Malibu plane piloted by David Ibbotson crashed into the English Channel.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found in its preliminary report in February that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly fee-paying passengers and the plane itself was not registered to undertake commercial flights, the Air Charter Association and Cardiff said in a statement.

N264DB on the ground at Nantes prior to the flight (Image: AAIB)

Records have since shown that Ibbotson was also not licensed to fly at night.
The statement read: “We wholeheartedly back the Air Charter Association (BACA) in their efforts to secure a review of illegal flights.
“Our club has been shocked by the sheer scale of the problem in the sporting world, and more broadly.
A t-shirt in tribute to Emiliano Sala is worn by a Cardiff supporter prior to the Premier League game against Southampton

“The club has a robust flight policy, but we are putting in place additional processes to protect players and staff.
“We will be insisting that intermediaries book only commercial licensed air carriers when handling player transfers. We are hopeful that other clubs will take similar positions.
“Meaningful progress on this issue – in the form of accountability and protections – would be one positive outcome from what is a terrible tragedy for everyone who knew Emiliano and for the football world as a whole.”
A banner showing Emiliano Sala’s face is held at the centre circle ahead of kick-off at Nantes’ Ligue 1 fixture with Saint-Etienne

BACA, the body which represents air charter companies, has called on the government to review the level of criminal liability and enforcement options available to authorities, including bigger fines and prison sentences for pilots and individuals who arrange and undertake illegal flights.
“This must be a watershed moment,” said BACA chief executive Dave Edwards.
“We have long argued that illegal flights are harming the legal air charter industry and putting lives of the travelling public at risk.
“It has become so prevalent that there is circumstantial evidence to suggest illegal flights are routinely happening frequently throughout the country. “In the case of the circumstances surrounding the Piper PA-46 Malibu crash, we believe there is enough evidence available to authorities to take strong action against those involved in this flight and to propose significant recommendations for reform.
“We desperately need stronger punishments to be available and, most importantly, better enforcement.”
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