Accident pilot Kobe Bryant was distracted in the clouds

Los Angeles (AP) – A helicopter pilot who crashed into a southern hillside in California last year, killing Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers, opposed his training and violated flight rules by flying into thick clouds. in accurately determining the probable causes of the accident.

Pilot Ara Zobayan was probably so disoriented that he could not detect from the bottom up, National Road Safety Board investigators found.

The agency criticized Zobayan’s decision to fly into the clouds, saying it violated federal regulations that required it to see where it was heading before the helicopter crashed in about 40 minutes of flight. Zobayan was among the nine people killed, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

The pilot was confronted with his training by being disoriented in dense clouds, which can happen to pilots in poor visibility when they can’t tell from below or differentiate which direction the plane is heading, board members said.

Just before the January 26, 2020 accident, Zobayan told flight controllers that he had climbed a helicopter and almost broke through the clouds.

But NTSB investigators have said the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter is actually banking and is starting to descend more and more, the investigators said.

They also said Zobayan had not submitted a safety flight plan and decided not to land at a nearby local airport to wait out the bad weather.

Between 2010 and 2019, there were 184 plane crashes that resulted in spatial orientation, including 20 fatal helicopter crashes, the NTSB said.

NTSB member Michael Graham said Zobayan ignored his training, adding that as long as helicopter pilots fly into the clouds without relying on instruments, which requires a high level of training, “a certain percentage will not come out alive.”

“What part of the pilot do pilots not understand when participating in a visual flight rules program?” added Bruce Landsberg, Vice President of the NTSB.

Tuesday’s federal hearing focused on the long-awaited probable cause or causes of the tragedy that unleashed its grief over the retired basketball star worldwide, has filed several lawsuits and encouraged state and federal legislation.

Bryant, Gianna and another six passengers flew from Orange County to a youth basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County on January 26, 2020.when the helicopter collided in dense fog in the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.

There was no sign of a mechanical failure and the accident was presumably declared an accident, the National Road Safety Board said earlier. The helicopter did not have so-called “black box” capture devices that were not needed.

During a hearing with the panel, which is likely to make non-binding recommendations to prevent future accidents.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency that investigates transportation-related accidents but has no executive powers.

He makes proposals to agencies such as the Federal Aviation Authority or the Coast Guard, which have repeatedly rejected some of the board’s safety recommendations after other disasters.

Over the past year, experts have speculated that the accident could lead to the demand for terrain awareness and warning systems, devices that indicate if aircraft crashes are in danger on helicopters.

The helicopter on which Bryant flew did not have a system that the NTSB recommended to be mandatory for helicopters. The FAA requires air ambulances only.

However, NTSB chief investigator Bill English said on Tuesday that the system would probably not have been useful in the scenario in which Bryant’s helicopter crashed.

The hilly terrain, combined with the pilot’s spatial disorientation, would have been “a distraction,” English said.

“The pilot doesn’t know which road is upstairs,” English said.

Federal investigators say Zobayan, an experienced pilot who frequently flew Bryant, may have “misunderstood” the angles. when it descended and engaged in banking, which can occur when pilots are disoriented in poor visibility conditions.

Investigators on Tuesday also blamed Zobayan for banking to the left instead of rising straight up while trying to climb out of the bad weather.

The other people in the crash were John Altobelli, a baseball coach at Orange Coast College, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team; and Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton. Alyssa and Payton were teammates of Gianna.

The accident resulted in lawsuits and counter suits.

On the day they hold a huge memorial service held at the Staples Center, where Bryant played much of his career, Vanessa Bryant sued Zobayan and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for alleged negligence and the wrongful death of her husband and daughter. Families other victims sued the helicopter companies, but not the pilot.

According to Vanessa Bryant, the aircraft operator Island Express Helicopters Inc. and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp., did not properly train and supervise Zobayan. He said the pilot was careless and careless to fly in fog and should have interrupted the flight.

Zobayan’s brother, Berge Zobayan, said Kobe Bryant was aware of the risk of flying the helicopter and his survivors would not be compensated from the pilot’s property. Island Express Helicopters Inc. he denied responsibility and said the accident was an “act of God” that he could not control.

The company also replaced two FAA air traffic controllers, saying the accident was caused by a “series of faulty acts and / or omissions”.

Vanessa Bryant also sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, accusing MPs of sharing unauthorized photographs at the scene of the accident. California already has a state law prohibits such conduct.


Koenig reported from Dallas. Social press writer Tom Krisher contributed to Detroit.