Kobe Bryant ‘did not pressure pilot to fly in bad weather’

 

NBA legend Kobe Bryant was not responsible for pressuring the helicopter pilot to take risks in bad weather in the tragic crash which investigators said was "avoidable".

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that there was no pressure on the pilot to drive Bryant and Gianna during the bad weather.

"There was no evidence that Island Express, the air charter broker or the client (Bryant) placed pressure on the pilot to accept the charter flight request or complete the flight and adverse weather," they said.

Vice Chairman of the NTSB Bruce Landsberg also said that the incident was not an accident, but instead was a "crash".

He reasoned his choice of word by saying that an accident is unpreventable.

 

The vice chairman added that pilots "know how to prevent these type of crashes", The Sun reported.

The chopper carrying NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others went down on January 28, 2020, in the California city of Calabasas.

​Honourable Michael Graham, a member of the board, also said that the pilot "did not follow his training," which he said made him "concerned as a fellow aviator".

It was later discussed that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, flew into the clouds when he was "legally prohibited" to do so.

Investigator Bill English added that "this would not have been a difficult flight."

 

In June 2020, approximately five months after the fatal crash, federal investigators said pilot Zobayan was likely disoriented by fog.

Zobayan told air traffic controllers that the helicopter was climbing its way out of a cloud cover - even though, in reality, the helicopter was rapidly hurtling to the ground, federal investigators said.

The chopper ultimately crashed into a hillside.

 

Pilot Ara Zobayan. Picture: Supplied
Pilot Ara Zobayan. Picture: Supplied

The pilot climbed to 4,000 feet in a tightening left turn and then descended rapidly in a left turn - a manoeuvre consistent with "spatial disorientation" in limited visibility.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said the pilot was legally prohibited from flying into clouds but continued doing so nonetheless.

The board has said pilots can become confused about an aircraft's attitude and acceleration when they cannot see the sky or landscape around them.

Sumwalt said the board "will discuss the phenomenon of spatial disorientation, which is the powerful sensation that confuses pilots who lose visual reference and what types of training can be effective in countering this effect".

The board said an examination of the helicopter's engines and rotors found no evidence of "catastrophic mechanical failure."

 

Kobe Bryant. Picture: Supplied
Kobe Bryant. Picture: Supplied

The chopper was flying the passengers to a youth basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Ventura County when the chopper encountered thick fog.

Zobayan - flying under visual flight rules, or VFR -climbed sharply and had nearly broken through the clouds when the Sikorsky S-76 banked suddenly before plummeting into the Calabasas hills and bursting into flames.

Bryant's widow, Vanessa, blamed the pilot. She and the relatives of other victims also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter.

The companies said the weather was an act of God and blamed air-traffic controllers for the tragedy, which unleashed an outpouring of grief for the fallen Lakers star, launched a slew of lawsuits and prompted state and federal legislation.

Investigators revealed that the chopper lacked a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS - which was not mandatory - that could have warned the pilot he was too close to the ground.

The NTSB has recommended TAWS as mandatory for helicopters.

Gianna Bryant with dad Kobe. Picture: Instagram
Gianna Bryant with dad Kobe. Picture: Instagram

Federal politicians have sponsored the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act to mandate the system on all choppers carrying six or more passengers.

Federal investigators have said the experienced pilot may have "misperceived" the angles at which he was descending and banking, which can occur when a pilot becomes disoriented in low visibility.

Island Express Helicopters, the company that owned the helicopter, was not certified to fly passengers under instrument flight rules - which is often used during inclement weather - though it was equipped to do so and the pilot was IFR-rated, according to previous reports.

 

 

 

Originally published as Kobe Bryant 'did not pressure pilot to fly in bad weather'



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