• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Pilot in Kobe crash violated flight rules -NTSB

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

It was a tragedy that perhaps could have been avoided.

That was the conclusion Tuesday by National Transportation Safety Board, which cited the actions of the pilot as the probable cause of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others… explaining that the pilot became disoriented and did not follow rules for flying in cloudy weather.

NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt: “He was flying under Visual Flight Rules - or VFR - which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds. However, as we've seen in so many accidents, this pilot continued his VFR flight in the clouds.”

The NTSB cited Pilot Ara Zobayan's decision to continue to fly in unsuitable weather conditions as resulting in his (quote) "spatial disorientation and loss of control."

“We’re talking about special disorientation, where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down, whether he or she is leaning left or right.”

Zobayan told air traffic controllers that his helicopter was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending, immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas in California. Zobayan was among those killed in the crash of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter outside Los Angeles in hilly terrain.

The NTSB said previously that an examination of the helicopter's engines and rotors found no evidence of catastrophic mechanical failure.

Forty-one year-old Bryant, an 18-time NBA all-star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two other girls and several others to a youth basketball tournament at the time of the crash.

The accident prompted an outpouring of shock and grief from sports fans worldwide.

Video Transcript

- It was a tragedy that perhaps could have been avoided. That was the conclusion Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, which cited the actions of the pilot as the probable cause of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed retired NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others, explaining that the pilot became disoriented and did not follow rules for flying in cloudy weather. NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

ROBERT SUMWALT: He was flying under Visual Flight Rules, or VFR, which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds. However, as we've seen in so many accidents, this pilot continued his VFR flight into clouds.

- The NTSB cited pilot Ara Zobayan's decision to continue to fly in unsuitable weather conditions as resulting in his, quote, spatial disorientation and loss of control.

ROBERT SUMWALT: We're talking about spatial disorientation, where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down and whether he or she is leaning left or right.

- Zobayan told air traffic controllers that his helicopter was climbing out of heavy clouds when in fact it was descending, immediately before slamming into a hillside near the town of Calabasas in California. Zobayan was among those killed in the crash of the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter outside Los Angeles in hilly terrain. The NTSB said previously that an examination of the helicopters engines and rotors found no evidence of catastrophic mechanical failure.

41-year-old Bryant, an 18-time NBA all-star with the Los Angeles Lakers, was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two other girls, and several friends to a youth basketball tournament at the time of the crash. The accident prompted an outpouring of shock and grief from sports fans worldwide.