A UK court today jailed David Henderson for 18 months after finding him guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft. The charge resulted from his role in arranging the January 2019 flight from France to Wales in which soccer star Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson died when an illegally chartered Piper Malibu crashed into the ocean. Henderson’s legal team said they will consider an appeal.
At a sentencing hearing in Cardiff, judge David Foxton said the 67-year-old former RAF officer was guilty of “a flagrant breach” of air safety regulations and must have been aware that Ibbotson did not hold a commercial pilot’s license, that he was not qualified to fly in IFR conditions at night, and that his type rating for the single-engine Malibu had expired. Prosecutors alleged Henderson’s aircraft management business had repeatedly breached rules governing commercial flights, describing his company as “a cowboy outfit.”
During the trial, in which a verdict was returned on October 28, the jury heard that the N-registered aircraft was owned by Fay Keely, who had refused to allow Ibbotson to fly her. Henderson’s company does not hold an air operator’s certificate. Prosecutors told the jury that, after hearing about the crash, he had texted associates instructing them not to speak about the circumstances around the flight out of concern it would “open a can of worms.”