Death of Kobe Bryant: the pilot of the helicopter made an “error of judgment”

A year after the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of eight people including NBA star Kobe Bryant, the Transportation Safety Authority concluded on Tuesday February 9 that the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in January 2020 near Los Angeles committed a “Error of judgment” having resulted in his “Disorientation” in the midst of thick fog.

Why the planet is crying Kobe Bryant

The former Los Angeles Lakers star was traveling with his daughter Gianna, 13, and six other passengers aboard the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that crashed on January 26, 2020 on a hill in North Calabasas. west of Los Angeles. There were no survivors.

Regulation violated while entering the fog

The pilot, Ara Zobayan, 50, was considered experienced, but he reportedly “Inflicted pressure” due to his friendly relations with his passenger, and would have pursued a bad flight plan despite the poor conditions, two elements that contributed to the tragedy, according to the agency responsible for officially determining the cause of the accident, the NTSB.

“His decision to continue to fly on sight in instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in his spatial disorientation and loss of control, led to the fatal accident”, the NTSB said in a statement, after nearly a year of investigation.

Kobe Bryant died a year ago, and the emotion is still so strong around the world.

According to the latter, the company managing the aircraft, Island Express, did not have the certifications for instrument flights with passengers, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan, violated the regulations by entering the fog.

Shortly before the accident, Ara Zobayan had indicated in a radio exchange that he was going to climb to 4000 feet (1200 meters) to fly above the fog. At 2,400 feet (730 meters), it had maneuvered to the left, but in the middle of the fog, the aircraft had started a rapid descent towards the hill.

“This maneuver is consistent with a pilot experiencing disorientation in space in conditions of limited visibility”NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt explained during a meeting to discuss the findings of the investigation. “He would have had the incorrect perception that the helicopter was climbing as it descended”, he added, his inner ear no longer knowing how to position it in space.

Succumb to the pressure

“Unfortunately, we continue to see the same problems influencing an error in judgment among pilots who have nevertheless had experience in air accidents”, explained Robert Sumwalt, quoted in the press release.

“If this pilot had not succumbed to the pressure he had imposed on himself to continue this flight in bad weather, this accident would not have happened”, he added.

The investigation underscored the long-standing friendship between the pilot and Kobe Bryant, whom he would not have wanted to disappoint by changing his flight plan or landing to wait for better conditions, as the passengers went to attend. a basketball match. There is no evidence of any pressure put on the pilot by the transport company or by Kobe Bryant to fly in bad weather.

The last audio exchange between the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and air traffic control

The NTSB also determined that Island Express was responsible for a “Insufficient supervision in its procedure for managing security measures”, in particular concerning the in-flight risk analyzes that pilots must complete before taking off. The company also had no “Robust risk management system” who could have helped his pilots to “Resist this kind of very real pressure” from some customers.

The pilot had over 8,500 visual flight hours to his credit, including 1,250 on the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, and 75 instrument flight hours. He had no medical history.

Vanessa Bryant, the player’s widow, had filed a complaint after the accident against the pilot and against Island Express, which she accuses of having authorized the aircraft to take off despite the bad weather and of not having the necessary clearances to allow his devices to fly blind.

The death of Kobe Bryant at 41 had caused great emotion in the world, including beyond sport. In twenty years, Kobe Bryant had become an iconic player for the Lakers. He won five NBA league titles and was named the league’s best player in 2007-08. He retired in 2016.

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