The plane carrying footballer Emiliano Sala that crashed in the Channel last month did not have a commercial licence, British investigators said on Monday.
But the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said the journey would have been allowed as a “private” flight in which costs are shared between pilot and passenger.
“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,” the AAIB said in an interim report.
Pilot David Ibbotson (59) was flying 28-year-old Argentine striker Sala to his new Premier League club Cardiff City from his previous side in Nantes in France on January 21 when the accident happened.
Football agent Mark McKay had a mandate from Nantes to negotiate the transfer of the professional contract between the two clubs.
Nantes has said that the mandate had expired by the time Sala boarded the flight as he had already signed for Cardiff City.
Speaking to The Times newspaper Willie McKay, Mark McKay’s father, has said that his son arranged the flight, just as he had organised several flights for brokers of the deal in previous weeks.
The plane, a Piper PA-46 Malibu from 1984, was registered in the US, according to the report.
The investigators also said that since the pilot’s logbook and licence were not recovered, it was unclear whether Ibbotson was authorised to fly at night.
The AAIB said the plane took off from Nantes Airport at 1915 GMT.
At 1958 GMT, Jersey air traffic control asked the pilot if the plane’s altimeter was working because the radar indicated it was flying lower than it should have been.
The weather radar at the time showed “a band of showers, some heavy, passing through the area”.
Four minutes later the pilot requested clearance to descend.
The controller asked if the plane required another descent to which the pilot responded: “Negative, just avoided a patch there, but back on heading five thousand feet.”
At 2012 GMT, Ibbotson did request a further descent.
The plane then descended twice and ascended twice before disappearing from the radar. — AFP.