EMILIANO Sala’s pilot could have become ‘disorientated’ and lost track of where he was before crashing their plane in the English Channel, an aviation expert has claimed.
The Cardiff City footballer and pilot David Ibbotson are presumed dead after the wreckage of the Piper Malibu plane they were travelling in was found on the bed of the English Channel yesterday.
Mr Ibbotson, from Scunthorpe, wrote he was ‘a bit rusty’ with his plane’s ILS (Instrument Landing System) ahead of the doomed flight from Nantes to Cardiff last month and it has since emerged he only held a private pilot’s licence.
Pilot Juan Arturo del Azar told respected Argentinian newspaper Clarin that Mr Ibbotson may have suffered ‘spatial disorientation’ if he struggled to master the equipment.
He said: “As in any investigation we can only speculate on what has been published until there’s official information.
“What we know is that the pilot ‘requested descent’ on passing Guersey.
“I’ve flown that same route at least 400 times. It’s a crossing over water.
When a person is in a cloud and looks out of the window, they are disorientated
Pilot Juan Arturo del Azar
“The reason for requesting a descent, according to the aviation community, was because the plane was accumulating ice.
“It could simply be a case of being in a cloud, not knowing how to fly with instruments and suffering what is called spatial disorientation.
“When a person is in a cloud and looks out of the window, they are disorientated. Then they have to know how to fly the plane looking just at the instruments.
“Your body sends you erroneous signals at that point. Your body tells you the plane is rising and the plane is falling and vice-versa.”
NOT CLEAR IF BRIT PILOT HELD QUALIFICATION
Instrument ratings train pilots to fly using just their controls as navigation without being able to see clearly out of the cockpit.
In the UK, the qualification can be taken as a bolt-on in addition to a private pilot’s licence.
However, in Argentina the instrument rating is taken along with commercial pilot exams.
It is not yet known if Mr Ibbotson held the instrument rating and the Civil Aviation Authority refused to comment on his credentials.
A spokesman said the pilot’s qualifications will form part of the investigation.
Mr Ibbotson, 59, had written he was ‘a bit rusty with the ILS (Instrument Landing System)’ before the flight on January 21.
He tagged himself at Nantes Airport on Saturday before replying to comments about the flight on Sunday.
The pilot wrote: “Was not to (sic) bad when I got there but I’m a bit rusty with the ils, in France now.”
A friend replied: “Rusty with the ILS?! I can’t believe that!”
Mr Ibbotson added: “You wanna bet, a little on the high side hehe, better than on the low side.”
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The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) yesterday confirmed they had discovered the plane 220ft down on the seabed.
Underwater video footage shows one intact body visible among the mangled metal after state-of-the-art sonar scoured the Channel for the wreckage.
It is not yet known whether the body was Sala’s or Mr Ibbotson’s and a decision is set to be made on lifting the wreckage from the sea bed.