The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter that crashed Sunday in Calabasas, killing nine people aboard including Kobe Bryant, was not equipped with a terrain alarm system when it hit a hillside with “high-energy impact“.
A terrain-awareness and warning system could have warned the pilot he was approaching a hillside, NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) officials said Tuesday.
After a fatal Texas crash in 2004 that killed 10 people, the NTSB recommended that similar helicopters be equipped with the alarm system. The Federal Aviation Administration failed to implement the recommendation, according to Jennifer Homendy, an NTSB board member.
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Homendy spoke Tuesday at a press conference.
The chopper carrying Bryant was 20 to 30 feet from clearing a hilltop when it crashed, investigators say.
The pilot said he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer in his last communication with air traffic control. When he was asked what he planned to do, there was no response.
Visibility was so bad on Sunday that the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) grounded its helicopters due to dense fog.
Pilot Ara Zobayan asked for permission to fly with SVFR clearance — special visual flight rules clearance — which allows pilots to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for regular visual flight rules, CNN reported. That type of clearance is very common, Homendy said, but investigators will find out whether Zobayan should have been given that special permission.
Bryant, his daughter Gianna and other passengers on the helicopter were on their way to a basketball game in Thousand Oaks. Those on board included John Altobelli, 56, longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College; his wife, Keri, 46; their daughter Alyssa, 13; Christina Mauser, 38, an assistant basketball coach at the Mamba Sports Academy; Sarah Chester, 45; Chester’s daughter Payton, 13; and pilot Zobayan, 50.
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