A part-time pilot and gas engineer was drafted in at the 11th hour to fly the plane carrying £15million Premier League footballer Emiliano Sala, the Daily Telegraph understands.
Sources close to the investigation said officials in Nantes, north-west France, had been expecting an experienced pilot who regularly flew footballing agents figures around Europe.
Instead, Mr Ibbotson, a gas engineer whose main flying activity was taking parachutists for jumps, was at the controls.
It is claimed the 60-year-old aborted three attempted take-offs and had joked with friends on Facebook that he was a “bit rusty” in the days before.
Last night the four day English Channel search for Sala was called off despite…