Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Didn’t Have Warning System That Could Have Alerted The Pilot To The Hillside

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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The helicopter crash that killed nine people on Jan. 27, 2020 including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, was not equipped with a terrain alarm system. Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant sits on the shoulders of her father, Kobe, as they attend the women’s soccer match between the U.S. and China, April 10, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, file).

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.

This image taken from video on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, and provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, shows part of the wreckage of a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif. The Sunday, Jan. 26 crash killed former NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. (James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

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.