Officials say Kobe Bryant crash pilot disoriented in clouds

Federal security officials blamed the helicopter crash on Tuesday, which killed him Kobe Bryant and last year, eight others on board due to the pilot’s bad decision to fly into thick clouds where he disoriented and plunged the plane into a Southern California hillside. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, poor visibility probably caused pilot Ara Zobayan to be so disoriented north of Los Angeles in the dense fog that he could not comprehend from below.

The five board members also said Zobayan, who also died in an accident, ignored his training and violated federal regulations during the 40-minute flight.

The agency announced its findings at a four-hour hearing aimed at uncovering the likely causes of the tragedy, which led to widespread public grief over the retired basketball star, filing a number of lawsuits and urging state and federal legislation.

Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six other passengers from Orange County flew to a youth basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County when the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed into dense fog in the San Fernando Valley in January. 2020. 26. there was no sign of a mechanical failure and the accident was presumably considered an accident.

Investigators said Zobayan believed he had experienced a spatial disorientation called “bending” that occurs in the inner ear, and pilots believe they are flying straight and horizontal with an airplane when they are actually banking.

The agency criticized Zobayan’s decision to fly into the clouds, saying Federal Aviation Authority standards require pilots to see where they are heading under so-called visual flight rules.

Board members unanimously mentioned his own pressure, which Zobayan probably felt he would end the flight for his star client, whom he often flew, instead of landing at a nearby local airport when the weather got worse than he expected. Zobayan did not submit a safety flight plan before departure either.

“The closer you get to the goal, the more you think maybe you can pull that out,” Vice President Bruce Landsberg said.

Kobe Bryant Crash
On January 26, 2020, photographers are working as firefighters at the site of a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, where Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed.

Mark J. Terrill / AP

The agency also blamed Island Express Helicopters Inc., which operates the aircraft, for inadequately reviewing and overseeing safety issues.

Just before the crash, Zobayan told flight controllers that he had climbed the helicopter and almost broke through the clouds. But investigators said the helicopter was actually banking and began to descend quickly.

The plane suddenly climbed and almost managed to break through the fog and clouds as the helicopter suddenly turned left and plunged into grassy, ​​oak-filled hills in Calabasas.

When it landed, the helicopter flew at about 184 km / h and landed at more than 4,000 feet per minute.

The impact resulted in a crater and scattered debris in an area the size of a football field. The victims died immediately.

Between 2010 and 2019, there were 184 aircraft accidents involving spatial diversion, including 20 fatal helicopter accidents, the safety committee said.

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

“When participating in the Visual Flight Rules program, which part of the cloud do pilots not understand?” Landsberg added.

The helicopter did not have so-called “black box” anchor devices that were not needed.

The Safety Committee is an independent federal agency that investigates transport-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. Democratic MP Brad Sherman of California last year introduced the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act, which would instruct the federal government to place these systems in all helicopters, CBS Los Angeles writes.

The helicopter that Bryant flew did not have a system that the safety committee mandatorily recommended for helicopters. The Air Administration requires it only for air ambulances.

However, Security Committee 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 made the warning system a “distraction,” English said.

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

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 counterwear.

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, Zobayan was not properly trained and supervised by Island Express Helicopters Inc. and its owner, Island Express Holding Corp. 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 contradicted two 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 Department, accusing MPs of sharing unauthorized photographs of the accident. California has a state law that prohibits such behavior.