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Multiple fatalities reported after helicopter slams into Calabasas hillside

Kobe Bryant Dead at 41 in a helicopter crash, Calabasas California ( Altro...

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As an aviator it makes me crazy when I hear about accidents like this. If it’s mechanical that’s one thing. When it’s a pilot over extending their skill seyt and possibly ratings it’s senseless and selfish to your passengers who dont know better
Mark Storm 12
Cliche about old bold pilots. Anyone can get spatial disorientation. Stay ahead of the aircraft and situation
Tim Smith 7
I'm not a pilot: however, I can tell you that my King Air pilot (retired F4 pilot) would have said we're not getting to this game anywhere near on time. We're landing in Burbank and wait. Fire me if you like.

Nothing worse than runway behind you, fuel on the ground, and get-their-itis.
Another option - land VNY and grab two rental cars or a van or uber .

The issue of IFR competency and currency is critical as there was potentially the option to either pickup a clearance airborne . Socal has (not sure it extends out to Camarillo) an expedited method of getting clearances when the flight is in airspace controlled by SoCal Approach (tower to tower is my recollection of the phraseology)
bentwing60 1
Over heard a conversation or two at the local saloon where a local PP described his Seneca 111 as all weather capable. apparently he was not and took out the whole family in an encounter with a squall line over AR some time back. So when the PP 'aviators' get on the soap box and preach to the choir, they might remember that the last 'post' might last past the NTSB report.

by the by, your avatar bio doesn't show an instrument rating and the possession of same isn't indicative of future performance.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

WeatherWise 24
Pilot requested Special VFR clearance to get through KBUR airspace, while following freeways at low altitude to maintain visual with terrain. The crash site totally socked in with fog. Never should have been in the air. IFR with terrain obscured throughout SoCal coastal and valley areas this morning.
Wonder if the pilot was IFR rated?
Ye, here's his certificate information from the FAA's Airman Registry Database;


County: ORANGE
Country: USA

Medical Information:
Medical Class: Second Medical Date: 7/2019

Date of Issue: 12/3/2007


Date of Issue: 5/14/2018


Date of Issue: 7/9/2008

stardog01 6
Articles have said that the pilot was a helicopter instrument flight instructor.
Yes. He was that.

If you're flying Kobe Bryant around in an exec helo, I'm going to go with yes.
Not necessarily. I get why you say that but I wouldn’t be shocked if we find out he was not.
Yes, after I posted I was thinking the same!
He had help commercial rating and help ifr if rating. You have to be if r rated to receive your commercial add on
bbabis 8
Unless things have changed, the IFR rating does not follow you to rotorcraft. I am ATP fixed wing rated and have a commercial rotorcraft add on but I am NOT IFR rated in rotorcraft. I know that is confusing and I doubt that the news will get it right. The investigation will have to let us know and I'm sure we will learn soon enough what this pilot's qualifications were.
He had rotarcraft Commercial rating, which would necessitate the IFR rotor rating. You can also search the pilot database and see his ratings.
djames225 4
Like Bill stated, just because someone is commercial rated in rotorcraft, does not mean they are IFR rated. Yes Ara was IFR rated as well as instructor rated.
I read today that he was.
VASAviation, on YouTube has the radio comms, and it sure sounds like a 'her', not a 'him'.
No, sounds like a 'him'. A foreign accent, possibly. *shrug*
SorenTwin 2
He's a commercial pilot. Can one NOT be IFR rated?
Even if he is rated, which he was (he was a CFII), that doesn't mean he was current ...
bbabis 4
Better yet, helo IFR rated. I am IFR rated and helicopter rated but not helicopter IFR rated. With that experience, I would never try IFR in a helicopter without the additional training and rating.
militello 0
I've heard that particular helicopter required 2 pilots to fly IFR. Could that be why he went svfr?
Company wasn't IFR certified. Pilot was IFR rated but would have been operating outside of company limitations. There's been articles posted on the matter. From what I gather they weren't operating any differently than any other service in the area.
WeatherWise 12
30 second audio clip between KBUR controller and N72EX.
mbrews 14
Thanks for the informative post. The additional ATC audio explains the helo orbits for about 13 minutes on N72EX final flight track. Orbits were at direction of KBUR ATC. IMHO, looking more like a case of get-there-itis on this final flight of Mr. Kobe Bryant
Hard to tell, but a go-round in IFR? What were they doing up there then? Lots of questions... Sad... Tremendous loss.
Jim Magee 4
The go-round was another flight into Burbank. N72EX was holding for traffic.
I think he was referring to the go-around aircraft and not 72EX.
This has been my question the whole time. I can tell you without a doubt that when I called Burbank and they stated that they had one aircraft executed the missed I would have looked at Kobe and said “sorry but we’re heading back.”
stormhagen 4
Listening through the liveatc feeds sounds like they were on a hold with BUR for svfr due to a go around by another aircraft. They were cleared through and passed to van nuys as they passed to the north along the 118 fwy. Last transmission I heard they asked to turn SW around van nuys and reported VFR. Transitioned to SoCal for flight following but I couldn’t find them on the recordings.
It made a rather abrupt turn from a southwesterly heading, to southeasterly and then into the hillside. My first though was spatial disorientation but who knows?
wingbolt 4
It also looks like a rapid climb during that turn...all in the last minute of flight
Up/down, up/down, and then huge up. Ouch...

1,400 to ~2,000. Would that bird have GPR, or was it something he saw?
thegrump 6
I looked at the track and saw the same thing. I wish I could overlay it with a topographical map, but I am going to speculate that the pilot knew they were close to terrain, but getting squeezed between it and clouds. That violent ascent right at the end sure looks like they saw terrain and were carrying WAY too much speed to do anything about it, pulled up with everything the bird had, but too late. My money’s on CFIT.

I’m not a helo pilot but everything about this flight strikes me as making bad decisions and piling worse ones on top with every choice.
A collection of mistakes, that's what causes accidents. The conditions were purely IFR. A guy's landed in a corn field for that. Fast turn; fast ascent - stall- my take.
That was my first thought as well. After reading these comments and reviewing the data I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.
STLPilot2 7
If this crash was due to mechanical failure, I will be very surprised. Based on the fact that he was trying to follow the 101, the crash site appears to indicate continued VFR flight into IMC and subsequent spatial disorientation. Unfortunately I think that this will boil down to a bad pilot decision which is unfathomable considering the fact that he had 9 soles on board and was trusted with their lives. To some extent I fault the system. Easy for me to say since it wouldn't be my money but I believe the operator of this helicopter should have updated this helicopter with Synthetic Vision for operations in IFR or special VFR conditions in southern California as these frequently occur. I know what you're thinking - it is difficult to compete financially with operators who don't do that as it is not required. That is the problem with aircraft charter in general - older aircraft can be acquired to operate at lower costs per hour and the buying public doesn't know that the aircraft they are chartering might not be the most capable and safe available. RIP
bentwing60 6
Some might guess that this ain't this pilots first rodeo with SOCAL fog. Tis the season, often every morning and occasionally for days. Bet a hundred the pilot was instrument rated and knew if he filed and got in or above the soup there was no
IAP where the principal wanted to go. Time for a limo. About as hard to find as fog in January or sidewalks covered with tents in LA.

Still say, they pay you as much to say No as they do to go and get them there safely.
bbabis 5
Or do away with 90% of the scud running. File straight to CMA, shoot the approach, and decide then if weather is good enough to follow the 101 to Thousand Oaks from the west or land and use a limo for the short ride.
skinutca 3
Yes, this is what i don't understand. I flew quite a bit in my teens and early 20s, all VFR SEL. Missed 25 years or so as i built a career and was often overseas. I am about to get back into it and will get my IFR in an SR22.

But even if he was going SVFR, could he not decide in flight that it was mess and pick up and IFR clearance into CMA? We flew out of MRY when i was young and it is where i learned. This was fairly common there. My dad ended up getting his IFR rating to make getting out in the morning easier.

An instructor with 8000 hours should have not been confused by entering the clouds and should have been prepared for it as a precaution. Like i said, i don't get it.
Mike Mohle 1
I was thinking the same thing, direct to CMA and under the LAX traffic over the water.
This Sikorsky S-76 goes 170 mph, but is capable of hovering in one spot, or even flying backwards, (duh, it’s a helicopter)
It seems he attempted this left 180 degree turn, probably to escape deteriorating weather conditions, (Good idea ! )
but he never really slowed down much below 150 mph.

Why not slow this thing down to 50 mph, 30 mph, or even a hover ?
He’s flying around with low ceilings and limited visibility, “skud running”

An airplane Special VFR is 1,000 ceiling and 3-miles visibility.
Helicopter SVFR is
1-mile visibility and clear of clouds.

Traveling at 150+ mph
I believe “defeats” the ‘spirit’ of this special rule for helicopters. Heck, 150 mph is faster than most GA aircraft !

# 2- Did the S-76 have synthetic vision on board ?
If not, then why not ?
Kobe is worth 1/2 billion $$, he can afford it.

# 3- It’s appears there was only 1-pilot aboard, why not 2 pilots ?
I believe the S-76 was originally certified for 2-crew, but I’m sure there’s an exemption for single pilot operation.

Kobe could certainly afford
2-crew, maybe nobody advised him of the benefits of a 2-crew operation, mainly Safety !

A flight decks decision making will normally be more conservative with 2-crew, vs single pilot, not always, but most of the time.

A 2-crew cockpit is especially helpful and “safer” when operating in a ‘high stress’ environment, like......
“skud running” !!
Caver006 7
A lot of people think helicopters can just slow down and hover and get out of the problem if they go IMC. That can’t be farther from the truth...slowing below 60 knots while in the clouds is a death sentence. You fly them just like fixed wing aircraft in IMC. 90 knots is a good safe speed.
That is a very good point you made about ‘no’ low speed or hovering in IMC conditions.

So as he is forced to fly at a lower AGL altitude, due to lowering ceilings, with probable decreasing visibility as well, would it be prudent for him, at that point, to start slowing down the helicopter, even if this forces him down below 500 ft.

AGL, in order for him to maintain a very “positive” VFR environment, so that he “could” safely slow down the helicopter, or even hover it, if that became necessary ?
Caver006 5
Definitely slowing to around 70 knots would be helpful or even landing in a near by field/parking lot if at all possible. At the point of entering inadvertent IMC I would transition inside (to the instruments), climb to a safe altitude, and call approach and inform them that you need a local IFR ASAP.
I’m sure his workload was beyond stressful and not knowing all the facts I hate to speculate. I feel awful for all the families involved. On top of all the passengers in the crash, we also lost a fellow pilot...
bbabis 1
What you say is very true for a pilot but I believe that the S-76B's autopilot has the capability of hovering IFR or at least proceeding at a much slower forward speed. If not a second IFR rated pilot, a working autopilot was required for this trip.
Caver006 3
Hovering IMC in any civilian helo is a no. You are right though...2 engines, an IFR rated ship, and a working autopilot are required....and I’ll never argue against 2 rated pilots in IFR conditions in a helicopter.
"An airplane Special VFR is 1,000 ceiling and 3-miles visibility.
Helicopter SVFR is 1-mile visibility and clear of clouds."

Sorry but that's wrong. Please read FAR 91.157 Special VFR weather minimums. For airplanes it's clear of clouds and 1 mile visibility. For helicopters no minimums are specified.


J Buck
FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ret.)
thegrump 1
I’ve been in an S-76, just as a passenger, but I am thinking every seat was full. And with several aboard being professional athletes (current or retired) they were carrying a lot of weight.

I’ve never had to use SVFR, I decided early on that I would always rather land if conditions were not clearly acceptable for me to proceed. SVFR, I reserved for totally unforcast weather coming out of nowhere, or having to divert to an alternate without realizing conditions had slipped at my alternate.
bbabis 3
Wow! Why? You have an aircraft fully capable of doing this trip IFR at the MEAs and shooting a coupled approach at the destination. Irregardless of who's onboard, the weather demanded an IFR flight.
jbermo 0
. . . "and shooting a coupled approach at the destination" . . . The destination was a gymnasium parking lot.
Negative. Destination was Camarillo Airport. Ground transportation from airport to gym.
I thought he was trying to land at the gymnasium parking lot. If he was going into Camarillo, I would have filed IFR Camarillo which has an RNAV approach with an MDA of 600 Ft (540 Ft above ground level). Scud running between Van Nuys and Camarillo would be insane in my opinion.
Read one report on Sunday where a passenger's friend stated the intent was to fly to Camarillo and then take ground transportation. I also believe that is being reported elsewhere. Flight history also supports Camarillo as the destination. While I'm certainly not a helicopter pilot, the gym parking lot would seem to have limited options for landing, especially if hosting a tournament (i.e., filled with cars). And roof also appears inadequate for landing.
F A 3
Looks like N72EX was previously operated by IEX...heres the website:
There's 72EX.
Kobe Hunte 3
RIP Kobe Bryant. I was named after him 20 years ago.
My question is why were they flying so low in IMC and not to mention possible icing conditions near high rising terrain? Last reported altitude was 2000MSL. They took off out of SNA VFR. Transitioned the LA bravo VFR. Decided to orbit around downtown LA... all of this AOB 1000MSL. Then they over flew BUR, went around the VNY Delta and then went southward and then back out west until they dropped off near VTU. They never picked up IFR... this is very concerning considering the high rising terrain in the area. Did they get approved for SVFR? If so why would they fly SVFR in conditions like the wx conditions that were current NEAR MOUNTAINS?? At least get VFR on top or something. Was this pilot even instrument rated? There's so many questions right now. If this was not a mechanical malfunction it easily could have been avoided. I guess we will have to wait and see what the official report is but if I had to guess right now this sounds a lot like a bad case of "get-there-itis". RIP Kobe. :(
WeatherWise 14
This is similar to the crash of the Agusta (N200BK) onto an NYC skyscraper on June 10, 2019. Pilot trying to scud run on a short ferry flight and became spatially disoriented over Manhattan. As you all know, it only takes a second.
skinutca 3
Big difference is that the pilot in that NYC crash was not IFR rated. This pilot was IFR rated in rotorcraft, was rated as in instructor in rotorcraft and had more than 8000 hours.

I do not understand why he did not file IFR.
The charter company was not rated, licensed or whatever the technical term is for IFR.
I saw on another thread here that the helo required 2 pilots to fly IFR... it literally locked out IFR if there was only one pilot.
bentwing60 1
Jim Magee 1
I read where VFR is used to avoid delays associated with IFR.
Seems they were following the freeways from KSNA in route to his sports academy in Thousand Oaks. The orbits in question I believe were when he was awaiting Special VFR clearance through KBUR airspace. This appears to me to be spatial disorientation based on his sudden turn to the southeast prior to impacting the hill, while he was attempting to follow the 101 freeway. Eye witnesses describe almost a straight down trajectory.
Mark Storm 4
Scud running into terrain. Didn't want to disappoint his demanding master. Unforetunately, he killed a good friend of mine, is wife and youngest daughter.
Just curious if that’s first hand knowledge?

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

brian..mark storm was not referring to kobe Bryant and his daughter...he was referring to the baseball coach who was on board, along with his wife and daughter...its a very sad thing,whether you knew the people on board or not..9 in total...
djames225 7
I believe he was referring to John, his wife and their daughter...AND those are straight facts
ah ,,, if so then he is correct.
he was referring to John it seems and he is correct.
100% agree. I want to know if pilot was IFR rated as well. My guess this is CFIT.
You may view his pilot credentials on the FAA pilot certification website. Name of pilot is Ara Zobayan
linbb -8
Does it really matter? He was wrong in every respect due to weather duh. It happens too often med flights are one of the worst it seems. Just because they are a heli and can land anywhere they think
juust read a report it was travelling about 160K and a decent rate of 4000fpm according to flight aware info , so that tells me hit IFR conditions - lost control and the end.
linbb -1
Some heli pilots feel special because of what they are flying has happened was too many times with them. Instead of making a landing when they can and not crashing when they run into very low or zero celings they keep going. Know of one by Pendelton OR that crashed in a wheat field they could have landed in rather than fly into it killing every one. Med heli crashes are too frequent killing all on board.
AWAAlum 5
Something that's nagged away at me since first reading about this disaster...every article I've read starts with "Kobe Bryant Dead at 41". I understand why, I suppose. However, the fact that 8 other souls also were onboard and lost their lives is barely mentioned. They are no less important.
Final minute of ADS-B data
Mark Storm 4
The Mamba mentality doesn't work in aviation, it gets you killed.
john baugh 4
It wasn't Kobe's fault. YOu pay experts to deliver expertly or tell you when it is a no-fly day. The pilot could've thrown another pilot in the co-pilots seat to help with the workload and decision-making process. ALso, they could've called Signature Aviation at CNY which is only about 6 to 8 miles from the crash. They could've had a limo waiting and diverted to Van Nuys. If you are the captain and you can't say "No" to the customers then you aren't a very good captain. Sorry.
yatesd 2
Good combo of radar track and audio at this link
Possible spacial disorientation? combined with IFI/VFR sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
I did mean IFR/VFR.
Very similar to fatal crash of Bell 206B Jet Ranger, in 1990, carrying Stevie Ray Vaughan and some of Eric Clapton’s staff. Dense fog, helicopter slammed into a ski hill at a high rate of speed. Terribly sad. Why aren’t TAWS required?
It is very conceivable, even likely, that TAWS would not have helped save these lives. 1. The helicopter already had at least two other terrain avoidance capabilities. Another pilot who previously flew Kobe in that exact aircraft said that there was a GPS Nav panel mounted device (e.g. GNS 430W, GPS496) that provided terrain alarms. In addition, the FAA reported that the pilot’s flight tablet, with ForeFlight installed, was found in the wreckage. I use FLYQ EFB (a ForeFlight competitor), and it has terrain avoidance capability, ForeFlight has to have it as well.

2. Helicopters operate under different rules than airplanes and as such, spend a lot more time near terrain. The FAA’s reasoning is, if an alarm goes off too frequently, the pilot will naturally begin to ignore it, and it won’t help solve the problem the money to buy it was meant to solve.

My Main beef is the ignorance of the press, and yet their willingness to speak with some bogus authority... “WTF, no terrain avoidance warning system installed on the helicopter, how stupid is that?!?!?!?” When there were already two other terrain waning systems onboard, suggesting that a THIRD one would be the magic solution is irresponsible.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, I wonder at how easily this accident could have been avoided. To my understanding, Kobe and his pilot had a good relationship for years. As a corporate pilot, when is it time to say to your client "We are in a dangerous situation and we need to get out of it". A simple 180 turn back to Van Nuys Airport, with an arrangement for ground transportation for the relatively short distance to the destination, and none of this would have happened. If Kobe was the great guy everyone says he was, I'm sure he would have agreed when the safety of his family and friends was at stake. I believe he put all the decision making into the hands of his pilot without so much as a thought about the fact that even the best pilots, with the best of intentions, can get boxed into a deadly corner with no escape. Just my humble opinion.
Yes it is just that simple............. Also I think the multiple calls are you in vfr conditions? really translated to from here it looks like you are doing something pretty stupid.
My thoughts are that the conditions were worse or deteriorated beyond what was forecasted or reported between the time the pilot did his weather briefing and the flight took place. Hindsight is 20/20 but I believe he just simply got turned around and followed the wrong highway.
skinutca 2
This seems likely. That said, maybe i am reading to much into it as we know the outcome, but it sounds like the controllers were skeptical along the way. Gently telling the pilot that the conditions at all the airports in the area were IFR.
mbrews 1
Bad things happed when pilots ad-lib in treacherous weather conditions. Case of scud running becoming a deadly type of " IFR " navigation. " I Follow Roads ", perhaps following the wrong road into a fog-filled, mountainous valley.
when the conditions are worse than anticipated the pilot's responsibility is to change the plan .
PIC makes the final call. Not the famous person in the backseat.
As former helicopt aircrew in the Marines flying at Tustin MCAS(H), just down the road from SNA, I can tell you that we would not fly on foggy days until the weather cleared some. I recall even waiting for the marine layer to lift. As crowded as the skies are around SoCal, I would not want to be in fog flying in a helo without being able to see any traffic, fast mover or not. While we had radalts in our Phrogs, we still did not fly into IMC conditions and skirted storms if they popped up.

There is just too much vertical terrain in SoCal that can reach out and bite one if one does not pay attention and taking off in fog is something that should have been discussed with those paying for the ride and about how dangerous it is.

As far as sounds, it is doubtful one heard the engines over the rotorblades. Also, fog has a way of making sounds sound different.

It is sad that everyone lost their lives, but who is to blame? The pilot or Kobe (who just has to be there)? It could be one or the other, or both.
Geez people KOBE was not flying the helicopter !! Hoping this wasn't the fog - but this was a top notch aircraft. Hillside, fog, get there itus, Sad Sad Sad RIP
The article posted didn't say who was flying. The original story just had 5 dead and now they have updated the story at the same link.
btweston 0
Who said he was flying the helicopter?
mbrews 2
Channeling Abbott & Costello : Who's on first, who's flying, who's not flying. Putting aside the name of pilot - the track on Flight aware has useful information on final flight path, as does FR24. Some informed posters on PPRUNE were rightly asking: After departing KDSNA, why was the helo orbiting at 700 ft between 09:19 and 0932 hours PST before heading to hilly terrain in the fog?. Final report will answer this some months from now.
Mark Storm 1
My guess is that he saw a hole in the IMC deck below him, dove for it, and either lost control in the dive or didn't realize it was into a mountain side. Regardless, super sad series of events, starting with even taking off. A fixable and avoidable situation all around.
RIP Kobe! My condolences to family and friends. What a legend with over 33,000 points!
Complacency cost eight innocent lives No way a passenger could be aware of that fatal flaw
I drove by that location at 08:00 Sunday morning pre crash, zero visibility, fog to the ground. No way special vfr would work. IFR or stay home kind of morning, common in the winter months here.
pinzvidz 1
Devastating. :(
RIP Kobe. Thank you for your service to basketball.
My chemistry teacher's iconic line to me: "Pass the ball, Kobe."
stardog01 1
When it became obvious that the conditions worsened to fog, couldn't the pilot have transitioned to instruments and ascended to above the clouds, notifying ATC of the need to do that due to sudden IMC? That helicopter can fly well above 10,000 feet and the pilot was instrument certified. There was no need to continue trying to remain below clouds/fog in order to visually follow roads on the ground.
Question of regulation vs common sense, IFR qualified pilot and IFR certified helicopter with a strong safety record? I've read that the owner/operator was not authorized to operate flights in IFR conditions. Regardless of how the pilot got himself and passengers into what appears to be a recognized rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.

A request for pop-up IFR with vectors to Camarillo could have saved nine lives. No rush, a helicopter can and apparently was hovering and waiting for special VFR. As an experienced fixed wing and rotorcraft pilot, if this event was even close to the final factual determination a bit of pride swallowed by any pilot, and non-compliance with any regulation imposed on the owner/operator may have saved all lives.
Paul Garth 2
On a different forum I wrote a similar post.
We all know that the Pilot in Command is the final authority. I know. I get it.
What I see, in general, is that ATC doesn't suggest to the Pilot what specific recommendations they would think is appropriate. For example, ATC didn't say, "Are you instrument rated, and do you wish an IFR Popup".
Now, I don't expect ATC to actually say that, but...
How about, "<Callsign>, are you taking full advantage of our ATC services?"
The language can be tightened up a bit, but what I'm looking for is a pattern interrupt from ATC to the pilot.
If the Pilot is "in the zone", which is human, it's easy to lose a bit of objectivity.
The general question from ATC is then internally thought about by the Pilot and then decided on.
In that moment, to your point, is where the "idea" of requesting an IFR Popup would come in, by the pilot.

Summary: The pattern interrupt causes the pilot to introspect all current conditions and come up with the better solution, all things considered.

Note: I'm a Private Pilot, but I was a 1LT Safety Officer for CAP, so I've had to do literally tons of safety seminars.
Until the NTSB issues their final report, I can't comment on a pilot's decision making. Horrible weather conditions and terrain were absolutely a factor. Here are my thoughts on the accident if you care to read:
This situation is likely to become the JFK Junior of another situation and generation. We all should expect much more detailed analysis and information eventually. For now, we can only hope this prevents someone else from even thinking about replicating flight in these condition for some time.
This is a very sad event to have taken place that has changed multiple families for ever. As this is leaning more toward an cfit event it reminds me a local family that died due to owner/pilot becoming disoriented. That accident took all of but one member of the family who of which wasnt on the plane. Im not going to say the pilot of this aircraft wasnt skilled but it is a reminder that sometimes unfortunate things do sometimes happen. Prayers for the families during this tragic time.
OK, I know TMZ is kind of paparazzi news, but they have photo's taken within minutes of the crash What is striking to me is that the fog had already lifted quite a bit when some of the pictures were taken. 5 more minutes circling around Pasadena might have made the difference here.
The pilot's responsible for aircraft operation. You have to stay on task, yet anticipate what might be ahead. Seems like the pilot hadn't worked out in his head what to do if there was a sudden change in weather conditions. If you're thinking about a problem in the middle of the problem, it's already too late.
The only explanation that makes sense is that he had vertigo. No experienced pilot would decend at 2000fpm when at an agl of 2300ft!
djames225 1
Why just vertigo? As I stated elsewhere, it's possible he was having a medical issue eg a heart attack, or there was a mechanical malfunction.(had to auto rotate but ran out of real estste) That may explain the sudden left and up/down followed by "the drop"
Mike Mohle 0
Maybe his rotor clipped the hillside while flying by resulting in a hard turn and rapid descent?
jamescagney2000 Presser from LA county Fire Capti. It was a Sikorsky S-76
Sikorsky S-76B N72EX
mbrews 3
The Flight Aware track for N72EX shows recent flight activity by the late Mr. Bryant's helicopter. Apparently Mr. Bryant used this helicopter frequently, to move about Southern California by air rather than by ground. RIP to the departed.
He was on a late night talk show confirming that he did use 'his' helicopter to get around and avoid traffic. (Rumor has it that around here, there is a guy who can't drive (DUI) but flies his helicopter to get around. Nuts)
may they all rest in peace..this is a tragedy...there were 9 people killed in total,and they were not all professional athletes as someone here posted..from listening to reports and interviews,there will be much more investigation done,but the severity of the fog in the area appears to have been a big factor..supposedly there is a lot of helicopter traffic in that area,so people are accustomed to hearing the sounds of the motor..i live not far from a private airport that has helicopter training and also lots of traffic,so I understand that can tell if its not quite right,and one witness says he heard sputtering and a boom..the ntsb will figure it out..
mbrews 1
- I would not agree with the inference that local ground observers are SUPPOSEDLY such reliable sources, that they can determine flight conditions based on their well trained hearing. The reports of "sputtering" , if true, could easily arise from rapid changes in thrust, or in rotor sounds. Yes, realize a rather loud boom occurs when a heavy helo crashes into terrain ?? Most likely CFIT, flying blind in fog-filled steep mountainous terrain.
This is a tragic event that may or may not have been avoidable. I think there are some things that show up that contradict the consensus about the weather. The reports indicate that there was fog all the way to the ground that day in that area. There are photographs of the helicopter several hundred feet in the air from the ground with a building in the foreground showing it to be below the fog layer. There are photographs of another helicopter flying above the wreckage site shortly after the accident happened who is clear of the fog layer with good visibility of the ground below. If the fog extended all the way to the ground, these photographs would not exist.

Another question comes to mind and that is why was the pilot flying in this particular area? He had been following the highway that led directly to Camarillo but suddenly made a left turn away from the highway into a hilly area. I don’t know if this particular highway went up and down in such a way that it penetrated the fog in some areas and if that is the case, the pilot would surely turn around and follow the highway back and for sure not turn into hilly terrain. It appears that the pilot had flown many hours in this area and was very familiar with all features.

Next comes the report that the helicopter missed clearing the top of the “mountain” by 20 to 30 feet. If you look at the photographs, he impacted the ground at or near the bottom of a valley with hillsides extending upwards on both sides for many more than 20 or 30 feet.

The next report said that he had been flying close to the ground when he abruptly climbed a couple thousand feet then the helicopter stopped and dove towards the ground at a rate of in excess of 2000 ft. per minute and never pulled out of the dive.
He impacted the ground nose first without ever trying to level out. The result of the impact was total disintegration of the helicopter with the exception of a section of the tail boom.

It seems like Mr. Zobayan was a very competent pilot and appeared to be what one would believe to be a very nice fellow and very trustworthy. However, this looks like it could possibly, and I said “possibly” be a parallel flight to one we are familiar with and that is Malaysian flight MH370. Like that flight, there seems to be more questions than answers. That returns to my leading sentence. I hope I’m wrong. It is not impossible that a medical problem occurred but that would not explain the sudden climb or the dive.
djames225 1
Thank you for seeing a lot of what I saw. That almost same flight route was made early Saturday morning, it was foggy then, and Mr Zobayan knew the area very well. They talk about how police and fire grounded their copters that morning. That happens as the minimums for flight are 2 miles visibility and at least 800' cloud ceiling. That I can see as most, if not all, police and fire copters need very good VFR with the ground, and some can, and do need to, get into high speed maneuvers.
That and as I asked...why the loss of communication, not even any static? I do not buy the "oh the area they were in limits communication". Communication was lost before that.
This all being said, nothing will bring back any of the lives lost too soon, so hopefully NTSB can get to the bottom of what happened sooner rather than later.
I was under the assumption that communication was not lost. He was able to communicate his request for "Flight Following" but was told by the air traffic controllers that he was flying too low for that service. How convenient, now he could fly anywhere he wanted and no-one would know where he was. He knew before he asked that Flight Following would not be available but I believe he just wanted to confirm it. He showed up a little later on traffic control at 2,300 ft. before he went down. Was he above, within, or still below the layer of fog at that altitude? When he made the left turn away from Hwy 101, he was no longer following any roads but flew right into mountainous terrain as confirmed by the location where he contacted the ground. He knew where he was. If he had no bad intentions, he would have just continued to follow Hwy 101, either westward or turned around and gone back. I have an idea he intended to make that left turn at that point. Remember, MH370 made a sharp left turn away from its intended flight path and turned off all of it's locating equipment and disappeared from air traffic controller vision.

I too sympathize with all of the families who lost their loved ones. These passengers were probably just visiting and having a good time in the aircraft cabin and were not paying any attention as to where they were , just relying in the pilot to get them to their destination.
djames225 1
The last transmission from the helo was the affirmation of 34.2 to Van communication with SoCal on static either
Thank you
'He had been following the highway that led directly to Camarillo but suddenly made a left turn away from the highway into a hilly area. "

Hwy 101 rises to the west (towards Camarillo) at that point . Essentially he was in a bowl . There is one additional option and that was to follow Malibu Canyon to the south out of that bowl to the ocean . Not at all a good idea as the mountains are high and the canyon twisty.

Yes there was an option, climb into IFR conditions , confess and ask for IFR to Camarillo but that would likely resulted in some serious discussions with the FAA. However, it was the right option and would have saved all aboard.
john baugh 0
Jerry, c'mon man it was avoidable. There were airliners going around at Burbank and the polic choppers, that fly every day were grounded. Plus the captain neglected to throw another pilot onboard to help. It was 100% pilot error.
I'm sorry John, I was entering the thought that it may have been possible that this crash was preplanned and if that was the case, and nobody sensed it, that would have made it unavoidable. Wouldn't that also be classified as pilot error?
Very unfortunate. When the final report comes out it may show exactly what everyone is suspecting? The bigger picture is that whether rotary or fixed, there is an inherent first responsibility to the safety of the passengers that rests on the shoulders of flight crews that fly them. Decision making is always left up to the pilot (s) and that process should never be allowed to be compromised by experience, weather conditions or hubris! Especially when the trip takes 22 min by car. R.I.P.
Should have read 1:22 min by car, but it doesn't matter now.
Ground school mantra: 'FLY THE PLANE!!!'. Don't be playing with light bulbs, or seat belts, FLY THE PLANE!!!

I flew in a chartered Beech twin, and after the 'pre-flight briefing', and jokes about no drink service and it'd be a long drop to try to use the lav, the pilot turned around, and we never heard from him again until we touched down. There was no idle chit-chat. His job was to FLY THE PLANE!!! Cabbie make me nervous when they are too chatty. DRIVE THE CAR!!!


And slag someone for misspeaking about time? Who doesn't know that you can't go 'around the block' in big cities like that without it taking a half hour, or worse. The only thing fast in LA are the speed demons on the freeways, and it's full contact driving too!

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Speaking of asses, HNY!
bentwing60 3
A simple response to bt is to acknowledge that he is the 'smartest man in the room' but contributes nothing to the dialogue.
Jim Magee 0
News reports says a someone nearby reported hearing the helicopter and it didn't sound right.

"It [didn't] sound right and it was real low. I saw it falling and spluttering."
Unless they are a pilot or mechanic of that specific variant of helo I would not put a lot of stock into that “eyewitnesses” statement
bbabis 2
The most meaningful eyewitness statements are that it was very foggy right down to the ground in that area. He was definitely IFR (I Follow Roads) and then that became impossible.
wingbolt 3
Probably didn’t sound right because the pilot was pulling a crap load of collective.
Looks like he got disoriented by Following the wrong Highway, Las Virgenes is pretty similar looking, since it's 4 lanes with Median while 101 is 6 lanes with Median but at 140 Kts he was too-fast assuming he could Orbit left to get away from the perceived threat but the Mountains are much bigger on the left side than the right side through that pass. Climbed too fast and had zero visibility. On Google earth, you can see the easy mistake. Being VFR was just complacency.
AWAAlum 0
It'ss too bad that the decision to fly or not is left up to a pilot. It seems logical to me to have a higher authority decide and then forbid any take-offs until given the all-clear.
bentwing60 0
And then when that decision by "a higher authority" is wrong and results in the fatality of the crew and pax. what's your answer?

According to the regs. the 'pilot' is the higher authority. And we are usually the first to the scene of the crime! Who has the most to lose?
AWAAlum 0
Oooops, have I stepped on some toes here? But if knew those answers, I;m relatively certain I would have chosen my career differently. My post was just the rambling thought process that goes on in here every week. There seems to be a consensus here that the pilot erred in flying in that weather. I remember another private plane suffering the same fate in the same conditions...JFKennedy, Jr. So, I suppose what I'm suggesting is someone who doesn't have a "need to get there" and is likely bettter equipped to make a sound decision perhaps ought to have the authority as to fly or no fly.
bentwing60 0
BUT, whom? The engineer drives the train, the Captain commands the maritime vessel, the idiots decide when to drive their vehicles in all sorts of inclement weather. The 'higher authority' is a deity that is the target of the left, and if you want to retire from flyin and pound out these nuggets, you'd best do your homework and be conservative.
AWAAlum 0
I wouldn't presume to say I know who. I'm sorry I can't answer that question for you. I'm just saying perhaps it should be someone other than the guy flying into the weather. But I do know your example of planes, trains and automobiles doesn't compare to this situation. And with that, bent, I'm out.
The general location of the crash is sort of a bowl with Hwy 101 descending into the bowl both east and west bound , rising terrain to the north and steeply rising terrain to the south.

However, from that irregular bowl Malibu Canyon slopes down to the south to the Pacific Ocean only about 10 miles away. It's has steep slopes on each side with the mountains higher than the basin they were in. This is simply one possible explanation for the turn.

It's also clear that they did not follow the controllers when they were near Burbank, instructions to generally follow I-5 up to the 118 freeway and then follow that west . They essentially went diagonally to the 118 ( closer to the final for VNY Rw 16 ) never followed the 118 (probably unable due to very low ceilings as the highway rises . Then turned about 45 degrees to the freeway and headed southwest for the 101 .

The easy alternatives a) Land at VNY and get cars or Uber b) Go IFR
AWAAlum 0
Some people here are assigning blame on the pilot for either lack of experience or lack of certification or lack of judgment...none of those people have a clue what happened. If it was, in fact, caused by something the pilot did or did not do, did it ever occur to you to wonder if he could have experienced a medical emergency? I don't believe anyone should be so quick to place blame until all the facts are known.
AWAAlum 1
THAT gets a downvote? Someone in here is nuts. Now THIS? This I would expect it - but not the former. Out.
All the ratings in the world doesn't mean he was a good he proved...
AWAAlum 2
Are you making a final determination?
Very sad, so far it looks like pilot's fault.
Paul Garth 0
Listen to the audio again and focus on the "flow" of his transponder code.
At one point, ATC said, "Radar service is terminated". "Remain that squawk".
Note: Typically, when we have Flight Following, and hear "Read service is terminated" there is an assumption that the next part will be "Squawk VFR" and we switch to code 1200.
I believe his squawk code was 0235.
Q: What if he heard "Radar service is terminated" and pushed the transponder reset button to flip to Squawk 1200?
When the female controller (Van Nuys Tower, I think) gives the long message about cleared into Class D and transitioning to the 118, the pilot confirms his Squawk and says "we're currently at 1400' and we have 0235". He is verbally verifying his squawk code for some reason.
Same ATC controller then says to contact Socal Approach on 134.2. She's not mentioning his squawk code. What she does say is, "Contact SoCal now 134.2 for flight following".
If he already had a Squawk code before her, and she's mentioning "for flight following", I'm thinking he is now squawking 1200 for some reason. To that controller, she may have seen code 1200 and figured that he NOW wants flight following.
SoCal Approach - "Helicopter 72EX, ident".
This, I think, is a problem. If SoCal Approach is asking for an ident, then they're really saying "which one of the 1200 codes are you".
SoCal Approach: Helicopter 72EX, yeah, you're following a 1200 code. So, you're requesting flight following?" At this point, SoCal Approach is probably now going to assign a new code.
SoCal Approach is then asking in the blind (no aircraft response) to clarify Flight Following, Say intentions, etc.

This is the part where I will defer to the NTSB, but...

What is a possible scenario?

-You know you had been originally given a squawk code.
-You know you want to maintain flight following to CMA because the weather is obviously not great
-You look down at the transponder and it's showing 1200 -- for some reason
-You look down at the transponder to fix what you know is your code - 0235
-You look up and find yourself flying blind.
This is more than a heartbreak for me. I feel angry and feel that this was completely avoidable. When the dust settles there wont be many kind words about the pilot. Damn it. RIP #24
djames225 0
First off, condolences to Vanessa and children and family and friends of Kobe. Also extend those condolences to family and friends of John, Christine, Sarah and Ara.
Second, while it's easy to blame weather, or speculate should Kobe have been flying in the soup, or why the pilot did or didn't do this or that, we do not know what happened. The pilot had flown Kobe and company many many miles and was rated IFR. I, myself, am not ruling out a mechanical problem or emergency medical problem with the pilot. It's odd that communication was lost for so long......not even any static. Just wish those birds carried a FDR.
mbrews 1
- Some would argue that we know highly likely what happened (CFIT), tragic though it is. LA police and Fire departments kept their helos grounded that foggy morning. Any sensible pilot would have done the same. This aircraft had no business taking these types of risks, simply to get a travel basketball team / coach to a sports site. Im betting on Getthereitis by a long time pilot, not wanting to disappoint / embarrass the clients entourage. Tragic, yes, but inexcusable decisions
bentwing60 0
An old one to think about,

You gotta follow the link for this to sink home, and on the CVR, DE can clearly be heard to say "Get this effin thing in the air" while the pilots were discussing whether or not to deice the airplane.

But, no pressure.

Inflexible schedules can be fatal.
El Kabong 0
Not knowing the landscape where the accident happened, but knowing the last reported altitude (according to VASAviation) was somewhere around 1500ft agl, are there hills that high in the area? Seems awfully high to me, but what do I know? I would have also assumed the S76 had some sort of terrain monitoring system that should have mapped and alerted the pilot when terrain was a factor. Thoughts?
Google Earth says the top of the ridge where he crashed was +1600'. Crash site roughly roughly 1100'. This is based on the location shown marked on Google Maps.
Rising terrain in area.
Cade foster -7
Thats a pretty advanced helicopter. From his risk taking I doubt he was former military.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

There are old pilots, and bold pilots, but there aren't any old bold pilots...

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

there is a fundamental mis-understanding of the respective roles of the controllers and pilots. The controller can issue "instructions" but it is the pilot's job and responsibility to fly the airplane safely .

The controller issues an instruction " remain outside of Burbank's class delta airspace for now. The pilot may in that case announce " Burbank , helo 123 has an emergency and we are turning inbound to burbank NOW at that point (emergency declared ) the controller's task is to vector other airplanes out of the way. Or the pilot may say Burbank unable to fly in visual conditions I need to land at Burbank ( not declaring an emergency) and the tower will work to get the aircraft to the airport but the pilot must still follow instructions.

In the case of the aircraft that had an engine on fire on takeoff from LA last week and declared an emergency , that it was returning there was widespread illiterate condemnation of the pilot for not getting permission to dump fuel. He had the authority to do ANYTHING after declaring an emergency. The controller's responsibility was to get traffic out of the way, perhaps information to the pilot ( no traffic between you and the airport RW 24
Left and Right clear, equipment rolling )

But the helo did not declare an emergency , he could have simply pulled up into the clouds , confessed that he was in inadvertent IFR and would have been given a clearance to a nearby airport in IFR conditions. However, the pilot's decision making to undertake the flight would likely have been examined and been found wanting.

Many aviation rules come from the rules of the sea where captains are considered to be responsible for the safety of their ship and following the basic rules of the sea . The controllers are discouraged from saying to all but the most incompetent pilots "what you are doing is really stupid and is likely to kill all aboard" .

You'll note multiple calls asking the pilot if he was in (special) vfr conditions , a gentle way of saying you are probably in a gray area. When the pilot confirms he is the controllers job is done other than providing notice of other aircraft in the area.
Don't be pointing fingers at the so called "Controllers" who happened to be on duty and involved with the handling of this aircraft. They are actually misnamed and should be job titled " Aircraft Traffic "Coordinator". They don"t "Control" anything. The fingers point at the pilot flying in the front right seat of helicopter N72EX that day . HIS job title was Captain/Pilot In Command, and was entirely responsible for the planning, flying and outcome of this miserable flight. My heart aches and I weep for the loss of the nine victims of this crash. May their souls Rest In Peace. Tom G
Wingrat -1
What a waste. After looking at his certificate information it seems a shocking lack of using all that certification to fly
the helicopter into terrain. Get thereitis .severe lacking the judgement to not fly into IMC? Tragic.
Wingrat 1
Certification indicates levels of competence. No medical emergency declared. One wonders if a copilot would have made a difference.was there that I-gotta get there taking place. Known unpredictable weather conditions can happen
And quickly. Choppers lacked terrain warning system. I don’t know is there forward looking weather radar for choppers. Is there ant available for that craft.
This entire discussion has no real ability to determine what the NTSB will discover and report on. We are gossiping!


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