Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: Investigators say pilot violated federal standards, likely became disoriented


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On Tuesday, federal safety investigators determined the probable cause of the helicopter crash that took the lives of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others on Jan. 26, 2020 was due to the pilot violating federal flight standards. Ara Zobayan flew through thick fog and likely became disoriented which led to the fatal crash, Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a hearing to uncover the cause of the accident. He said Zobayan was flying under “visual flight rules,” meaning it was a necessity to see where he was going during his flight.

Kobe, Gianna and the rest of the passengers were traveling from Orange County to Ventura County for a youth basketball tournament at the Mamba Sports Academy, when the helicopter encountered thick fog making it difficult to see. The pilot tried to fly above the fog and the layer of clouds, and as he almost broke through, the aircraft suddenly plunged and slammed downward into the Calabasas hills, killing everyone aboard instantly.

Aside from investigating the cause of the crash, the board is expected to also make recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure crashes like this don’t happen again. One recommendation is equipping helicopters with a warning system that will alert the pilot if the aircraft is in danger of crashing. The helicopter Kobe flew in wasn’t equipped with that system, as it is only a requirement for air ambulances. 

After Bryant’s death, however, many have been vocal about making warning systems a requirement for any aircraft carrying six or more passengers. There has also been support from lawmakers who have sponsored the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act, which would adopt new safety standards for helicopters.

Bryant’s death sent shockwaves through the sports world, and even after a year since it happened, it’s still been difficult for many to grapple with the death of a sports icon. 





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