David Henderson, a 67-year-old pilot, has admitted organising the flight that crashed into the Channel, causing the deaths of Cardiff striker, Emiliano Sala, and another pilot in the United Kingdom (UK).
Henderson pleaded guilty to one charge over the death of Sala, 28, who was killed on the trip to Britain from his French club to join Cardiff City.
The suspect said he was the operator when his plane took payment for Sala to fly “without permission or authorisation” from outside Britain.
The formal charge read: “On the 21/1/19 as the operator of aircraft registration N264DB attempted to cause N264DB an aircraft register elsewhere that the UK to discharge a passenger Emiliano Sala at Cardiff in the UK for valuable consideration without permission or authorisation.”
But he is denying another charge, after recruiting fellow pilot, David Ibbotson, 59, as a last-minute stand-in to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu from France to Cardiff airport.
However, a court has heard he allegedly did not have a commercial licence and was “not competent” to fly in bad weather.
The two-week trial is due to start on October 19, after the jury are questioned before being sworn in, including being asked if they are fans of Cardiff City.
Sala, an Argentine, was on his way to the UK to play for Cardiff in a £15 million move from French side, Nantes, when the small plane crashed, killing both Sala and Ibbotson.
Sala’s body was recovered the following month, but the body of Ibbotson has not been found.
Henderson was originally feared to be on the plane because his bank details had been used to book the flight.
But he recruited the late pilot for the flights that weekend, heading to and from France, with Sala on board.
He flew from Cardiff on January 18 before the fatal flight from Nantes on January 21.
The court heard Henderson was charged with two offences under the Air Navigation Order (2016).
An earlier court heard Ibbotson “did not have a commercial pilot’s licence or a licence that had expired in December 2018.”
The charge stated that Henderson knew that “bad weather was forecast and Mr Ibbotson was not competent to fly in that weather.”
He also denied a charged related to Ibbotson not having a commercial pilot’s licence at the time of the flight, with it having expired in November 2018.
It also related to the bad weather, which was forecast for the fatal return journey from Nantes to Cardiff, with the pilot not being “competent to fly in such weather”.
Henderson, of the East Riding of Yorkshire, will face a two-week trial in front of a High Court Judge, Justice Foxton, in the prosecution brought by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Sala’s family living in Argentina are not expected in court to hear the trial.
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