Did Kobe Bryant’s pilot purposefully choose to fly in the fog?
It’s crazy to think that it’s officially been over a year since Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California, which also claimed the life of his thirteen year old daughter Gianna, as well as the lives of seven others, including the pilot of Kobe Bryant.
Now, after new reports by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggest that the pilot might have suffered an episode of “spatial disorientation”, it’s clear that the only malfunctioning part of this helicopter was the decision-making of Kobe Bryant’s pilot.
With over a year to reflect on the incident, it’s becoming more and more clear how this tragedy came to be. Here we’ll revisit the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, as well as the passing of everyone else on that fateful helicopter. We’ll equally examine today’s new information regarding the pilot of Kobe Bryant, and uncover what exactly happened on January 26th, 2020.
Kobe Byrant’s death
On Sunday, January 26th, 2020, it was reported that a helicopter had crashed in the city of Calabasas, roughly thirty miles northwest of Los Angeles. Soon after, it was tragically noted that one of the passengers on this crash was none other than Laker legend, Kobe Bryant. While rumors began to circulate for over an hour as to who else perished in the crash, including Kobe’s entire family, it was finally confirmed who else was on board.
Bryant’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also a victim of this tragic accident, as well as seven others, including the pilot. The passengers were on their way to a basketball tournament, taking off from John Wayne Airport en route to Camarillo Airport.
Everyone on the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was killed immediately on impact. While it had been speculated for months that perhaps this accident was due to a maintenance issue with the helicopter, many in the Calabasas area continued to bring up the heavy fog that morning, and how it was nearly impossible to maneuver through . . . even on the ground.
While many of those close to the tragedy have waited over a year for a probable cause, it seems as if they’ve now finally found some peace as to why and how this accident took place.
The NTSB has confirmed that they do have probable cause, noting that pilot Ara Zobayan may have felt some pressure to fly into what was “dangerous weather”. Whether that pressure was put on him by Kobe Bryant or himself, not wanting to jeopardize his relationship with the basketball legend, it is clear that Zobayan violated multiple deferral regulations by flying deep into heavy fog.
“The pilot took pride in these positions with both the client & Island Express,” the NTSB noted. “They had a good relationship with the client and likely did not want to disappoint them by not completing the flight. This self-induced pressure can adversely affect pilot decision-making & judgment.”
Robert Sumwalt, the Chairman of the NTSB further elaborated on the most likely scenario of Kobe Bryant’s pilot flying in the heavy of fog:
“The resulting descent & acceleration were conducive for the pilot to experience a somatogravic illusion in which he would incorrectly perceive that the helicopter was climbing when it was descending. The helicopter continued this steep descent, and the pilot was either not referencing the instruments or having difficulty interpreting or believing them due to the compelling vestibular illusions and he did not successfully recover the helicopter.”
California Senator Dianne Feinstein reintroduced a bill about a week ago, called the Kobe Bryant & Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act. This bill would require terrain awareness & warning systems on all helicopters that carry six or more passengers.