US safety panel: pilot error likely in Bryant crash

U.S. safety officials say the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others last year was due to the pilot’s decision to fly into thick clouds, where he became disoriented and plunged the aircraft into a Southern California hillside. (Feb. 9)

Video Transcript

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

- I mean, we heard it probably [INAUDIBLE].

THOMAS CHAPMAN: The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's decision to continue flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in the pilot's spatial disorientation and loss of control. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's likely self-induced pressure and the pilot's plan continuation bias, which adversely affected his decision-making and Island Express Helicopters' inadequate review and oversight of its safety management processes.

BRUCE LANDSBERG: We're pretty clear that there was no alternative plan. The pilot had multiple opportunities to change. We saw him deliberately descending as he was getting pinched, as I think is the technical term, between the ground and the clouds. We also know that-- at least I know from personal experience and maybe some of my fellow pilots will agree-- that the closer you get to the destination, the more you think that maybe, just maybe you can pull this off.

The other point is, he didn't follow any of the recommended mitigations for entering instrument meteorological conditions or to properly, once he had entered them, configure the aircraft by slowing down, by starting a climb, by activating the autopilot. None of that happened.