Roommates, it’s been a year since the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others from a fatal helicopter crash in Southern California. Today the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the Island Express pilot Ara Zobayan pushed the limits of bad weather flying rules and ultimately abandoned his training as he became disoriented in the clouds and crashed into a Southern California hillside last year, investigators said, according to CNN.
Investigators also said he climbed into what witnesses described as a “wall of cloud,” possibly became disoriented, and unconsciously turned into a cloud-obscured hillside he knew was there. Investigators said the helicopter was equipped to fly into clouds with the pilot operating solely in reference to the instruments — known as Instrument Flight Rules or IFR. However, Island Express’ agreement with the FAA allowed only flights where the pilot could maintain visual contact with the ground, known as Visual Flight Rules( VFR).
NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, “Even good pilots can end up in bad situations.” As the meeting is still ongoing, NTSB will recommend long-lasting safety recommendations due to the crash, including more efficient calls for increased safety training for helicopter pilots on how to avoid inadvertently flying into clouds. However, the responsibility will fall on regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration and helicopter charter companies and pilots to act on the recommendations.
In the meeting, investigator Dujuan Sevillian said Ara might have felt pressured to perform for a high-profile client and continued flying into deteriorating weather conditions due to him and Kobe developing a “very close” friendship. NTSB board member Thomas Chapman pushed back on that claim, although he acknowledged pilots might contend with a “tendency to want to please” the influential person who charters their services.
At this time, Island Express has declined to comment to CNN. Let’s continue to keep the family of Kobe Bryant along with the other victims in our prayers.
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