LOS ANGELES – U.S. security investigators said Tuesday that the pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter flew in the clouds last year in clear violation of federal regulations and probably suffered disorientation before the helicopter crashed and killed Bryant and eight other people.
Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said pilot Ara Zobayan flew according to visual flight rules, which meant he had to see where he was going.
Zobayan led the plane to the sharp climb and nearly broke through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter suddenly landed and crashed into the southern hills of California below, killing everyone on board.
The helicopter did not have so-called “black box” anchor devices that were not needed.
During the hearing, it was revealed that he had communicated the probable cause or causes of the accident, pointing with plenty of fingers.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, blamed the pilot. He and relatives of the other victims also blamed the companies that owned and operated the helicopter.
The pilot’s brother didn’t blame Bryan, but said he knew about the risk of flying. According to the helicopter companies, the foggy time before the helicopter hit land was an act of God and the air traffic controllers were blamed.
The federal hearing focused on the long-awaited probable cause or causes of the tragedy, which unleashed its grief over the retired basketball star worldwide, filed a number of lawsuits, and urged state and federal legislation.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers flew from Orange County on January 26, 2020, to a youth basketball tournament at Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County when the helicopter crashed into dense fog in the San. Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles.
Zobayan suddenly climbed and almost broke through the clouds when the helicopter suddenly landed and crashed into the Calabasas hills below, killing all nine on board immediately before the flames engulfed the wreckage.
There was no sign of a mechanical failure and the accident was presumably considered an accident, the NTSB said earlier.
The panel 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.
Following an investigation into the accident that caused Bryant’s death, one possible recommendation might be that the helicopters have a terrain detection and warning system with devices to indicate when aircraft crash.
The Bryant helicopter flew and did not have a system recommended by the NTSB for helicopters. The FAA requires air ambulances only.
Federal lawmakers backed the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act to entrust the devices to helicopters carrying all six or more passengers.
James Hall, the former president of the NTSB, said he hoped the FAA would need the systems as a result of the accident.
“Historically significant tragedies were needed to advance the regulatory needle,” he said.
Equipment known as TAWS costs $ 35,000 per helicopter and requires training and maintenance.
The International Helicopter Federation, which represents the helicopter industry, has discouraged the so-called “one size fits all” approach.
In a statement, President and CEO James Viola said making mandatory equipment for the entire industry “ineffective” and “potentially dangerous.”
Even though Zobayan flew at low altitudes in hilly terrain, the warning system may not have prevented the accident, said Ed Coleman, a safety science professor at Embry-Riddle.
The harsh terrain could have triggered the alarm “kept on” and distract the pilot, or cause him to lower the alarm volume or ignore it, Coleman said.
Federal investigators said Zobayan, an experienced pilot who frequently flew Bryant, could have “misunderstood” the angles at which he descended and banked, which can occur if pilots are disoriented in poor visibility, according to NTSB documents.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, died in the crash; 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 of a huge commemoration ceremony 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. The families of 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. denied responsibility and said the accident was an “act of God” that it 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.”
The counterwear claims that one of the controllers incorrectly rejected Zobayan’s request for “flight tracking” or radar assistance as he walked through the fog. Officials said the pilot terminated the service because the radar could not be maintained at the flight altitude of the aircraft.
According to the lawsuit, the controller said he would soon lose radar and communications, but the radar connection was not lost.
When a second controller took over the claim of the lawsuit, the first controller failed to inform about the helicopter, and because radar services were not properly terminated, the pilot believed he was being followed.
Vanessa Bryant also sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, accusing MPs of sharing unauthorized photographs of the accident. California has a state law that prohibits such behavior.