Pilot in Helicopter Crash Wasn’t Allowed to Fly on Medical Grounds

The fatal helicopter crash that killed, among others, basketball legend Kobe Bryant belonged to a charter company licensed to fly by observing visual flight rules and was restricted from operating in weather conditions where pilots will have to rely only on instruments found in the cockpit. This is according to a former pilot who told Forbes magazine. Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the ill-fated flight, was licensed to fly using cockpit gauges but may have lacked the experience to do so given the operating impediments of Island Express Helicopters. This is according to Kurt Deetz, a pilot who had previously flown the basketball superstar.

That morning was characterized by heavy fog and low clouds in several parts of Los Angeles, and neither the law enforcement agencies nor helicopter tour companies were flying. The last communication between the pilot and air traffic controllers was when he informed them that he was trying to go above a layer of clouds.

It is yet to be established if the pilot’s visibility was compromised, but shortly after his final call, which came after the chopper Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was going west along the Ventura Freeway. It soared to 2,300 feet before turning unexpectedly towards Santa Monica Mountains close to Calabasas to the South. It suddenly lost control and smashed onto a slope 1,085 feet above sea level. This is in the authority of the US National Transportation and Safety Board, who are carrying out the investigation.

On that ill-fated Sunday morning the pilot took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, under a cloudy sky and visibility was at 4 miles which is the minimum. Onboard, the chopper was Bryant, his daughter Gianna and six other passengers, who were headed to Thousand Oaks for a basketball tournament at his sports academy. The visual range got worse as they flew north over Los Angeles, and the helicopter was delayed for a short while of Burbank Airport’s airspace. Here, pilots were needed to make instrument landing and takeoff. The pilot was given the green light to proceed under special visual flight rules, conventional permission for choppers, who are permitted to fly beneath the airplane to stay below the cloud cover.

The majority of pilots in that predicament would have proceeded hoping that the situation will turn out alright and either go back or land in the area close by. In a circumstance where a pilot accidentally encounters bad weather, they should proclaim an emergency necessitating they fly by instruments and the closest air traffic controller will direct the chopper in for a landing. Probe into the crash is still ongoing and other factors could have influenced the tragic accident other than poor visibility, for instance, mechanical problems.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremybogaisky/2020/01/29/pilot-in-kobe-bryant-helicopter-crash-wasnt-allowed-to-fly-by-instruments/#4edd11cd26ea

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