Cardiff City star Sala and Brit pilot Dave Ibbotson were both killed when their Piper Malibu plane crashed in the English Channel after plunging 7,000ft-a-minute towards the sea.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch published its interim report into the January 21 crash today along with new pictures of wreckage found on the sea bed.
Aviation experts say the images and new flight radar graphics reveal Mr Ibbotson’s desperate attempts to keep control of the plane in thick cloud and heavy rain.
Julian Bray, one of Britain’s leading aviation experts, told The Sun Online: “The pilot chose to descend twice to keep below cloud level and remain in VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions).
“He appears to have veered left and then right before dropping, then climbing again and finally the plane has dived into the water.
“What we don’t know is what happened in the split seconds before.
“There is no sight of a tail section and the fuselage seems to have been smashed about.
“The damage does not suggest it’s from water pressure alone and there must have been a large impact.
“That suggests either the plane has hit the water at speed or there’s been an explosion of some sort above the water line.
“There will have been a six-man life raft in the tail end which will have been blown away from the pilot and the passenger in the impact.
“They will have had no chance of survival in the water without that in the conditions they faced.”
Investigators also revealed the plane plunged at a rate of around 7,000ft-a-minute after twice requesting permission to descend in order to gain better visibility in heavy fog.
In its final seconds, the report says radar signals suggest the plane climbed rapidly from around 1,600ft to about 2,300ft.
The damage does not suggest it’s from water pressure alone and there must have been a large impactAviation expert Julian Bray
The plane lost contact with air traffic control just moments later.
The interim report reveals the US-registered plane did not have approval to be flown commercially and had not sought permission to do so.
Mr Ibbotson, from Crowle, Lincolsnhire, is also confirmed to have held a private pilot’s licence – but not a commercial one.
His private licence meant he could only fly passengers in the European Union on a ‘cost sharing’ basis, and not for any commercial profit.
The ‘cost sharing’ arrangement allows for individuals to split the expenses of a private flight, but Mr Ibbotson would have had to have paid at least half of the costs.