An investigation has been launched into whether the pilot who was flying Emiliano Sala to Cardiff was acting legally within his licence requirements.
David Ibbotson, 59, of Crowle, Lincolnshire, held a private pilot’s licence according to US Federal Aviation Aviation Administration records, which meant he could only carry passengers on a flight if he was not being paid for his services.
Mr Ibbotson was granted his licence in 2014 in the United States, where the law states that pilots cannot make a profit by carrying passengers, and the only remuneration allowed is to cover basic costs like fuel and expenses.
It is not yet clear if Mr Ibbotson was paid within the regulations for the fateful journey, but football agent Mark McKay confirmed that he helped arrange the trip, possibly organised through a third-party company.
In a statement last night, Mr McKay said: “I can confirm that when Emiliano made myself and his agent Meissa N’Diaye aware that he wished to travel back to Nantes following his medical and signing on Friday, I began to look into arranging a private flight to take him to Nantes on Saturday morning.
“That evening it was confirmed a plane was available to fly Emiliano on Saturday which could remain in Nantes until he was due to return to Cardiff on Monday and train on Tuesday.”
But yesterday, The Telegraph revealed that the part-time pilot and gas engineer was drafted in at the 11th hour to fly the plane carrying the £15million Premier League footballer.
Sources close to the investigation said officials in Nantes, north-west France, had been expecting an experienced pilot who regularly flew footballing figures around Europe.
British licences registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are not published, the body confirmed on Friday.
However, an investigation source had previously said on Thursday that Mr Ibbotson was believed to hold the necessary certificates.
Emiliano Sala timeline
The Air Accident Investigation Branch said it had launched a probe into the incident.
"We are looking at all operational aspects of the flight including licensing," a spokesman said.
The search for the Piper PA-46 Malibu carrying the Argentinian striker and his pilot was formally called off on Thursday, to the frustration of Mr Sala’s family.
His sister, Romina, said that she feels her 28-year-old brother and his pilot are still alive as she called on rescuers not to give up hope. She also said that she plans on visiting the area where teams have been searching for the plane.
Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said that the decision to end the search was “difficult” but insisted that the chances of survival were "extremely remote".
The plane had left Nantes airport at around 7.15pm on Monday evening, but just after an hour into the flight, Mr Ibbotson asked air traffic control to reduce altitude from 5,000 ft to 2,300 feet.
A short time later the Guernsey coastguard was alerted after the aircraft disappeared from radar screens.
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Rescuers have seen a line of heavy weather in close proximity to where the plane was last in contact near Hurd’s Deep – an underwater valley, 100 metres in depth.
“Finding anything in that depth of water is going to be extremely difficult,” Mr Barker added.