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EMILIANO SALA MAY HAVE ESCAPED DOOMED PLANE AFTER EMERGENCY LANDING, AVIATION EXPERT SAYS

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Emiliano Sala may have escaped from the plane carrying him after the pilot made an emergency landing in the English Channel, Daily Star in the UK quoted an aviation expert to have said.

The good condition of the Piper PA-46 Malibu plane carrying Sala suggests a “ditching” rather than a loss of control, according to French journalist Michel Polacco. 

The aviation specialist speculated about the cause of the crash and the fate of 28-year-old Sala in an interview with broadcaster Wendy Bouchard on French radio station Europe 1. 

He suggested the pilot David Ibbotson may have been forced to land in the English Channel amid “difficult conditions” at around 7pm on January 21. 

He said a technical malfunction, such as the engine freezing or stopping entirely, may have happened in mid-air while they flew from Nantes, France to Cardiff.

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“We can think that the plane did not make a fall, but rather that the pilot, perhaps following the engine stop, tried to land, which is obviously very difficult to do,” he told Bouchard. 

In a separate interview with TV channel France 3 Pays de la Loire, Polacco talked about what may have happened to Sala and Ibbertson after impact. 

He said: “In what state were they [Sala and Ibbotson were in] after this possible ditching I do not know.”

A search boat privately hired by Sala’s family – partly financed by crowdfunding donations – found the plane wreckage within hours of the search starting on Sunday morning.

The Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) has confirmed that a body is visible inside the wreckagein footage filmed by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). 

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Polacco raised the possibility that “someone managed to get out” of the light aircraft as it sank given only one body was visible in the AAIB’s ROV footage. 

In contrast, aeronautical expert Juan Arturo del Azar told Argentine newspaper Clarin he believes the cause of the plane crash could be “disorientation” of the pilot.

In cases of disorientation, pilots may feel that their aircraft is gaining altitude while the opposite is happening, he said.

Investigators are attempting to recover the body located in the wreckage of the plane, sunken approximately 67m underwater off the coast of Guernsey. 

A spokesman for the AAIB said: “We are attempting to recover the body. If we are successful, we will consider the feasibility of recovering the aircraft wreckage.

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“Strong tidal conditions mean we can only use the remotely operated vehicle for limited periods each day and this will mean that progress is slow.

“Regardless of the results, we will not be making a further statement until the families have been informed.”

The plane had requested to descend before it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.

An official search operation was called off on January 24 after Guernsey’s harbour master Captain David Barker said the chances of survival following such a long period were “extremely remote”.

The remains of the aircraft were tracked down by a team co-ordinated by ocean scientist David Mearns, who has located some of the most elusive wrecks in the world.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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