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Island Express, Helicopter Company In Kobe Bryant Crash, Sues 2 Air Traffic Controllers

The company that owned the helicopter that crashed, killing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others is suing two air traffic controllers. The lawsuit filed by Island Express alleging the two air traffic controllers committed a series of “erroneous acts and/or omissions” that caused the Jan. 26 crash in the foggy hills of Calabasas. The FAA says it does not comment on pending litigation. Island Express says they have no further comment. ( More...

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Jonathan Huls 52
Personal, and I guess corporate responsibility too, is dying in our culture. The Captain (PIC) is the final authority and is directly responsible for the safety of his or her flight. This includes their ship, crew, passengers, and the innocent bystanders that they happen to fly over. In past times this responsibility was highly esteemed and jealously maintained. Now in the eyes of the public, air traffic controllers are necessary to keep our ships right side up.

No. The role of ATC is to facilitate traffic flow, and to provide traffic and obstacle clearance to instrument traffic in the airspace they control. They will provide "flight following" to visual aircraft in the airspace in question on a work load permitting basis only, meaning they don't have to.

Moreover, below 700 feet the airspace in question is entirely uncontrolled. At the time of the crash the pilot was the only entity with any control...or jurisdiction to control the aircraft. This lawsuit should be summarily dismissed if the judge does a bit of research.

Where will it stop...should the air traffic controllers sue Almighty God for placing a mountain in the path of this helicopter and thus "causing" an accident.
Tom Lipa 6
Very well stated. Ultimately this incident will be assigned to "continued VFR flight into deteriorating weather conditions". The PIC is exactly that.
Sam DeMars 43
Lawyers are the greatest parasites on our society. They think personal responsibility and reality are negotiable.

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Chris Hawker 2
I think Wood is a valid excuse for why the house burned down. but I do agree that if they weren't in the jurisdiction of the air traffic controllers I don't know how much money Island express is going to spend on lawyers to deflect responsibility but it will never be as much as the flight traffic controllers in fighting it.
Ronnie Falgout 20
The pilot in command of that helicopter is the one responsible for the decisions that caused this senseless accident. The comment about lawyers and all their frivolous lawsuits and endless TV commercials is spot on.
Paul Sorenson 15
Aviate, navigate, that order.
Confess, Conserve, Climb, Communicate, and Comply
Markus Wolff 2
Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance... It was an IFR day, why not file IFR or Follow the freeway lights, IDK
Torsten Hoff 1
That's because the PIC, Ara Zobayan, was not IFR certified. Following the freeway lights is no substitute for VFR conditions.

Last but not least, on the stretch of the Ventura Freeway where the accident occurred (between Parkway Calabasas and Las Virgenes Road, see Google Maps link below), the freeway makes several fairly tight turns while initially climbing and then descending at a steep grade, and there are steep hills immediately on either side. Following the freeway would still have been hazardous event if the pilot was able to see the freeway.
Joe LoRusso 3
Sam DeMars 4
Holding them accountable or twisting the truth to make someone seem responsible when they are not? I don't see your logic.
rmchambers 15
Holding WHO accountable? the ATC specialists provide flight following on a workload permitting basis. The pilot is ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight. Launching VFR into marginal or IMC conditions is stupid. ATC is not responsible for that. The sole cause of this "accident" if you can even call it that sits squarely on the shoulders of the pilot and he paid the ultimate price for his poor ADM. Sadly others paid the ultimate price for his lack of ADM as well.
Joe LoRusso -9
I get that it doesn't match the public narrative, but that doesn't mean they are "twisting the truth." Perhaps evidence suggests culpability on more than one party, as is often the case in these situations. This lawsuit seems to have followed the proper evidentiary timeline - as more facts become known, more levels of culpability become known. I wouldn't be shocked to see more derivative suits follow.
Joe is absolutely correct. The claims will be made and argued, and the decision will come by judge alone or judge and jury (under Preservation) on the facts and merits of the arguments. At the end someone, or entity, will be accountable for the outcome, and the decision is not negotiable, although resolution could be negotiated prior to trial, or even afterwards to avert ongoing appeal. Appeal is not a negotiation. These are your rights and before making ignorant claims about lawyers (and I am not one, just a patriot citizen, unlike people who throw our rights under the bus) remember that rights not exercised are often denied.
sharon bias 33
Since the company is bankrupt, and the only "assets" are what the attorney's can squeeze out of insurance carriers, and the attorney's are going to take at least 30%-50% of any settlement, it's almost cruel to continue this. Let the dead rest in peace. Let the living try and find closure. Let the FAA find and publish any errors so other pilots can learn.
Pecos Llama 4
By the way, the NTSB is responsible for investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States, not the FAA.
bentwing60 3
Pecos, you might look up NTSB part 830! The FAA is charged with the investigation of reported incidents or non-fatal accidents, the NTSB is tasked with the investigation of all Fatal accidents and incidents of a non fatal nature that they deem pertinent. Usually part 121, large or turbine powered aircraft. Just sayin'.

An admitted engine shutdown in flight in a turbine powered airplane in the US is a reportable NTSB event.

The best way to win a ramp check 'is to know thy regs.'
Isn't this like suing the Highway Department because you lose control of your vehicle and end up off the road?
Torsten Hoff 9
Yeah, kinda like a “chains required” road where the driver decides “I bet I can make it” and takes his chances, things don’t work out, and the car winds up in a ditch. Only the ditch is a hill above Calabasas.
Mike Mohle 4
Or, here, hold my beer........
Ric Ben 22
My favorite Helicopter quote.
"The Helicopter appeared so reluctant to fly forward that we even considered turning the pilot's seat around and letting it fly backward." - Igor Sikorsky
victorbravo77 5
The Great Man:
Greg S 16
I missed the part where ATC mesmerized him into flying the helicopter into the ground.
MSU Sparty 15
There are old pilots and bold pilots. There are no old bold pilots.
The term Pilot In Command means final decision is your responsibility not the controller.
C Anderson -2
Try that bit of logic when they call you to the tower for a “briefing”.
gilgraham 2
A pilot can reject any command or clearance issued by ATC. However, you MUST have a valid reason involving safety of flight for doing so. If the reason is later determined to be because of your incompetence, negligence, or substandard planning, you're done.
belzybob 23
Ambulance chasing lawyers on a fishing trip?
Joe LoRusso 2
you understand that lawyers can't bring suits just to bring suits right? They are acting on behalf of a client. I bet the family doesn't thing the suit is a fishing trip.
Steve Cutchen 3
Lawyers do their marketing to the victims, though.
Joanne Stiger 1
Don't worry the FAA will pay, they always do. One word that is not exactly stated as prescribed in the 7110, puts the FAA at fault.
dnorthern 21
This may backfire. The victims families suing the company might use this suit as an admission the pilot was unable to make his own decision regarding safe flight.
jbermo 2
Else there must be a strategic reason for such a frivolous suit but I can't think of one.
geroldn 21
Island Express is desperate and is suing the last people around - the controllers. Their pilot in command killed Kobe Bryant; this is the end of Island Express. The controller does not have to provide flight following and can stop any time. I fly over NH and VT and if I'm not above 5-8000' depending on position, flight following is spotty. I routinely get told: 'You're lost from radar, maintain VFR, check in with the next controller in 10 miles, and have a good day.
geroldn 9
If the PIC is on an instrument flight plan, then the controller will keep the plane clear of traffic and clear of terrain. That requires the pilot to follow controller instructions regarding course and assigned altitude. Scud running is not an option.
Michael Hawke 9
Except he was on VFR and the helicopter he was flying was not properly equipped or certified for IFR flight.
Ed Glidden 9
it is still up to the pilot to maintain situational awareness and own navigation. ATC cant hold your hand the whole time
In Kobe Bryant!s case the PIC was not on IFR but SVFR.

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Torsten Hoff 7
Are you just not capable of having a civilized conversation without calling people names? The language you use distracts from any valid points you may have.
srobak 3
Sorry but Kobe killed Kobe. His insistence to the pilot to fly and threatening the contract for the company if he didn't is what got him killed. Extortion plain and simple.
darjr26 5
I feel bad for the two controllers involved. They don’t deserve this and I hope the FAA gives them their full support.
So if I encounter a traffic light that has malfunctioned and I fail to check for oncoming traffic before clearing the intersection, can I sue the city if I get in accident?
Jerome Tre 1
You actually can, but under certain conditions. As a high level view, first the city has to have known the light was out and second they were not doing anything about it. So if the light was reported out to the city and they were in the process of getting someone there to fix it and/or provide traffic control then a case against the city may not be successful.

Now the twist comes in that many states have traffic laws that direct a driver to treat any intersection that has inoperable traffic control devices present as if it were a four way stop. That clause could potentially protect the city from liability if they knew but were not doing anything about it at the time.

As with anything, anyone can sue anyone else for any reason if they can get a court to hear their case.
Sounds like the "It's not my fault, he made me do it!" excuse for all the errors.
victorbravo77 2
Yep. I always thought the PIC was the final authority as to the safe conduct of a flight. Silly me. Lawyers be lawering.
victorbravo77 1
Don Arsenault 4
Hmmm. Bottom line: the Pilot in Command is always the final authority during flight. Seems to me that the PIC failed to abort when conditions became questionable.
srobak 3
While that might be true for you and I in daily flight - when you're threatened with extortion against the entire company for refusing to fly that puts the liability on Kobe. Consequently his estate is what this company should be suing. Not the FAA.
Phill Roddick 4
This is an unfortunate turn of events for what is the long living issue of a Pilot not making the call to turn around or even say "I am going to stay home today" It is also a perfect example of celebrities that think they are bullet proof in all circumstances. Sometimes we just need to own our own decisions. That should have been a flight to a clearer destination that day and then a car ride. Not flying to a stadium car park in bad weather. We only get the one shot at life so our decisions need to reflect our desire for longevity.
ROFL the legal services have finally hit rock bottom
Tim Hunter 3
Wait: Not one person is going to mention the weather factor?? Just ATC? Come on!
This guy flew into bad conditions folks!
srobak 1
Under the threat of extortion to him and the company from Kobe.
ADXbear 7
Without bring on an IFR FLIGHT PLAN ATC is not remotely at fault..

The pilot overstepped his abilities and flew into raising terrain.. were only as good as our last flight..
djames225 5
Me thinks the someones at Island Express either smoked too many doobies, drank too much swamp water or smacked their heads, against their desk tops, too many times.
I can't recall hearing that this flight was under a filed IFR plan and if this is not the case the pilot is responsible to maintain situational awareness. This was a clean cut CFIT. (controlled flight into terrain)due to marginal, below minima weather conditions. He was operating under SVFR, not IFR rules. Case dismissed.
Pa Thomas 4
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Jesse Carroll 0
Your point?
Look, the only time I recall ATC as being responsible for a crash is when a flight at LAX around 1991 was cleared to land while another bird was in position and hold (lined up and waiting) at the numbers of the same runway.
Otherwise, its unlikely and rare.
el piloto es el unico responsable de las decisiones que se toman en el aire, pero muchas veces se ven presionados por los clientes que los obligan a cometer errores como parece haber sucedido en este caso, el piloto no se puede defender porque esta muerto entonces claro vamos a demandar a los controladores, sabiendo la experiencia del piloto y las veces que habia volado por esa ruta al encontrarse con frentes nubosos o lluviosos debio bajar inmediatamente pero la pregunta es si el señor kobe le dio alguna instruccion.
Jim DeTour 1
I guess channeling money through lawyers could get a court to overlook the companies aircraft was not IFR certified then the pilot committed the craft to IFR conditions. Figures if the needed IFR instruments were functional it would of easily been checked off certified.

Helicopters do get leeway to fly low in sight of terrain at a safe speed. Figures the pilot was fixated on pressing on for speed to deliver on time his considered as VIP passengers. Painful lesson on don't rush and managing time doesn't mean plan with the fastest results or cut corners especially in IFR conditions in a non IFR aircraft.
RC Pate 1
No, this is the pilot in command’s fault. I don’t know much about this situation but my guess is spaitial disorientation, no instrument flying capability. The denial of flight following didn’t cause this incident.
patrick baker 1
Lawyers seem to like litigation, even when not called for. The controllers can not been faulted in any respect in this incident. There was a instrument rated pilot on an instrument flight plan flying in instrument conditions, who make critical, crash-causing flight decisions. This pilot did not fly into a thunder storm- he flew in very low ceiling conditions that no air traffic controller could deny him entry into. The pilot was not competent in flying the aircraft that flight , that day- 100% pilot error. Zero percent controller error.
Douglas Hoff 1
This was NOT a good day to be flying VFR!!!!
The pilot, although instrument rated and a CFII, was NOT current in IMC and obviously became disoriented. So, ATC caused this crash ... how?

I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe. What the hell is happening to our country?
John Allen 1
As earlier stated by obviously experienced pilots, it's the responsibility of the Pilot in Command to determine whether or not the flight goes as scheduled. It was a no-brainer that the IMC conditions were a "NO GO"! It's sad they want ro make the highly trained and capable ATC the scapegoats.
john doe 1
File under "the best defense is a good offense" and "muddy the waters".
Jesse Carroll 1
Where does it prove that Kobe threatened the PIC and Company contract? I must have missed that somewhere.
Who is in command to ask the PIC to land this thing ASAP and call a cab?
Just saying!
Jesse Carroll 2
“We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

- Ronald Reagan
Markus Wolff 1
Uh thats not gonna fly. Every professional knows to fly & File IFR. This guy should have read the weather, this guy should have went up not scudrunning in difficult terrain. Sorry for being that A..hole who claims to know better. Ive flown the area as a traffic watch pilot & have been talking to FAA for 40 years, controllers have a limitation, they can not be in the seat with the pilot, to them we the pilots have to have our stuff together, really this guy really messed up. I support the FAA on this, not the operator who must have "made" the pilot take the flight. Guess it was so critical Kobe had to fly thru fog, really WAIT for the weather to get better if you are not IFR current.
Stefan Sobol 1
They are only suing ATC because the government has deep pockets to pay a large settlement. They're hoping that the government will pay big bucks to make the whole thing go away.
What a sad joke that of course we understand but not the public. Lets not forget that ligation attorneys almost killed a once vibrant general aviation and they have no morality.
Ric Wernicke 1
This like the guy who sued the government after crashing his boat into a light house. He said he asked the light house to alter course on the radio, but they
i am guessing the lawyers were looking for anyone to sue,since the helicopter company is out of business now..if i remember correctly,it was the pilots choice to fly in the foggy conditions as he did, and the helicopter was not equipped properly for those sad...
Torsten Hoff 1
The reason the lawyers didn't sue the helicopter company is because they are suing on behalf of the helicopter company.
fred wyse 1
How do get to operate a commercial aviation business with pilots that are not instrument rated?
Plummit 1
He was instrument rated but the S-76 is not approved for Single-pilot IFR flight.
bentwing60 1
"S-76 is approved for single-pilot IFR operations when appropriately equipped".
It boils down to the pilot. Reported he became disoriented in the clouds. What was he doing there if he couldn't handle it.Do as Shakespeare said about lawyers. First thing .....
Dave Hahn -2
Somehow this has to be Trumps fault. I am waiting
wacoupf7 -2
It's hard to accept pilot error - it has to be someone else's fault. Next someone will assert that it is a racist thing.
srobak 0
The people they need to sue is Kobe's estate. And also file cases with the doj. Threatening extortion for refusing the fly is a criminal act, and the negligence associated with it resulted in the deaths of island Express employees and open them to liability.
james smith -1
stupid pilot is the bottom's justa case of "had to get there" for the boss and nothing else...the altitude above you does no good and a retired controller and pilot in Atlanta, GA ARTCC ....such a wasted lives for no reason!!!

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djames225 10
If you are going to continue posting non-civilized or ignorant statements, at least LEARN GRAMMAR!!
It's their, not there and too not to!!
Greg S 2
To be fair English is his second language.
djames225 3
Not according to his profile "Language English (USA)"


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