Kobe Bryant helicopter pilot ‘dismissed weather fears’ and was disoriented by fog before crash killing nine, NTSB says – The Sun
THE pilot of the helicopter that crashed in January, killing nine people including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, was likely disoriented by fog.
Federal investigators stated on Wednesday that pilot Ara Zobayan had told air traffic controllers that the helicopter was climbing its way out of cloud cover, even though in reality the helicopter was descending at the time.
The helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California, on January 26.
In the newly released findings, which total some 1,700 pages, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wrote that pilots who cannot see their surrounding sky or landscape can suffer from "spatial disorientation."
"Without outside references or attention to the helicopters attitude display, the actual pitch and bank angles have the potential to be misperceived," the NTSB stated.
The exact cause of the crash is still unknown.
Limited visibility will be an important factor in the ongoing investigation, according to Reuters.
Vanessa Bryant, the wife of Bryant and mother of Gianna, sued the helicopter company, Island Helicopters, in the wake of the crash, claiming that it was reckless to fly in such weather conditions.
NTSB investigators interviewed four current Island Express pilots and one former Island Express pilot. Some were critical of the company's safety culture, according to the DailyMail.com.
All nine people aboard the helicopter were killed: Bryant and his daughter Gianna; Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, who was affiliated with Gianna's team; Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton; and Zobayan himself.
Gianna, Alyssa, and Payton were teammates on their way to a tournament.
Earlier this year, the NTSB ruled out "catastrophic mechanical failure" as a cause of the crash.
Evidence has so far shown that the helicopter had increased its speed, made a sharp left turn, and then began falling, even though Zobayan had just radioed that he was climbing to 4,000 feet in order to get above the dense cloud layer.
“Calculated apparent angles at this time show that the pilot could have misperceived both pitch and roll angles,” one report stated, according to The Associated Press.
“During the final descent the pilot, responding to (air traffic control), stated that they were ‘climbing to four thousand.’”
Less than an hour before the helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9.06 am, Zobayan sent a text to experts overseeing the flight that the weather was "OK," according to the AP.
His sentiment was echoed by Richard Webb, who owns the company that booked the flight, OC Helicopters.
"The weird thing, though, is that the tracker had stopped at 9.45 am, which is not normal and we were trying to reach Ara over the radio," Whitney Bagge, vice president of Island Express Helicopters, said according to the Daily Mail.
"I kept refreshing the tracker praying that it was just broken."
Kobe Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star.
His public memorial service, held on February 24 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, gathered thousands of fans.
The date was chosen to honor his NBA number, 24, as well as Gianna's youth basketball team number, 2.
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