As the world continues to mourn legendary NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna,
and seven other passengers who died in a helicopter crash on January 26th, 2020, it's also left
others with questions as to how the accident occurred.
The retired basketball player had a long history of flying in helicopters so, why was that
January morning any different?
According to Business Insider, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that
the helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76, did not have a black box to record audio, meaning that
some mysteries regarding the final moments of those involved in the accident will never
The biggest question on everyone's minds is whether or not something was wrong with Kobe
Bryant's helicopter on the day of the crash.
The chopper is a longtime favorite of the rich and famous.
President Donald Trump owns a $7 million customized version of the aircraft.
Bryant's former pilot Kurt Deetz told the Los Angeles Times:
"The likelihood of a catastrophic twin-engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn't
Deetz also mentioned that Bryant's chopper was in "fantastic" condition, comparing it
to a Cadillac.
According to Deetz, the aircraft's company, Island Express Helicopters, follows a "very
good maintenance program," so was this particular Sikorsky lacking in anything?
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Bryant's bird was missing a terrain
awareness and warning system.
The NTSB reportedly called on the FAA in 2006 to issue a requirement that choppers carrying
six people or more utilize that system, but according to the New York Post, that technology
was only required on air ambulances and other medical helicopters.
It was not required on Bryant's aircraft.
Kobe Bryant loved flying in his helicopter.
The retired NBA player used it mostly out of convenience, so he didn't have to sit in
"...where I could still train and focus on the craft but still not compromise family
So that's when I looked into helicopters."
What the public seems to be wondering, however, is why Bryant chose to fly on a day when the
weather was bad?
Law enforcement officials told TMZ that the weather in Los Angeles was "extremely foggy
Sunday morning," to the point that, quote, "even LAPD air support was grounded because
According to CNN, Bryant's helicopter was reportedly given permission to fly, operating
under "special visual flight rules."
In a separate report, CNN also noted that at one point during the flight, the pilot
asked for a "flight following," although by then, he was reportedly flying too low to
receive the radar tracking assistance.
The helicopter that Kobe Bryant and the other victims were on was headed to a familiar destination.
In fact, Business Insider reports that just the day before they'd taken a very similar
But the chopper wound up taking an unexpected route on that fatal day.
The helicopter was ordered to circle to allow another aircraft to land.
Unfortunately, the delay may have forced the pilot to navigate less familiar territory
at a time when he was already dealing with bad weather that could have severely limited
The Los Angeles Times analyzed flight data and reported the following:
"As [pilot] Ara Zobayan approached the hills of Calabasas at 150 mph, air traffic control
radioed him, telling him he was too low to be seen on radar.
Four minutes later, the pilot advised he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.
He rose roughly 875 feet in less than a minute and then began a descending turn before slamming
into the hillside."
"The NTSB is working to rule out mechanical failure, but this helicopter does not have
a black box.
They did recover an iPad and a Cell phone that they hope to analyze.""
NPR reported that the National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to the site and is
now leading the investigation, but that team will not have an easy task.
Investigators will have to deal with rugged and elevated terrain, which took firefighters
nine minutes to hike due to the "extremely steep" path that leads to the crash site.
Some firefighters were even "lowered to the scene from a sheriff's helicopter."
An 18-member NTSB team of experts will focus on areas of investigation that range from
"operations, human performance, airworthiness, structures, and power plants," per NPR.
The team will also analyze the pilot's background and the helicopter's maintenance, ownership,
and operating records.
The onsite team will be assisted by drones used to map the wreckage.
The investigation will likely span months, and while the results will hopefully provide
some clarity, they won't reduce the tragic nature of the situation.