A witness to the untreatable crash of a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and 8 others said it sounded normal just before slamming into a hillside and wreckage examined by experts at the scene showed no sign of engine failure, federal investigators said in a report released Friday. The Jan. 26 crash occurred in cloudy conditions and aviation experts said the “investigative update”.
From the National Transportation Safety Board reinforces the notion the pilot became disoriented and crashed while trying to get to clear skies around Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles. The veteran pilot, Ara Zobayan, came agonizingly close to finding his way out of the clouds.
He told air traffic control he was climbing to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). He ascended to 2,300 feet (701 meters), just 100 feet (30 meters) from what camera footage later reviewed by the NTSB showed was the top of the clouds.
But rather than continuing higher Zobayan began a high speed descent and left turn in rapidly rising terrain. He slammed into the hillside at more than 180 mph (290 kph) and was descending at 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) per minute.
"“If you exit the bottom of the clouds at 4000 feet per minute at that high speed, you’ve certainly lost control of the aircraft,” air safety consultant Kipp Lau said. He said Bryant’s chopper could have emerged from the clouds in just 12 more seconds, assuming it was ascending at 500 feet (152.40 meters) per minute.
“Once you break out of the clouds it’s clear. Everything lines up with the body,” Lau said. “Now you have a real horizon."
Mike Sagely, a helicopter pilot in the Los Angeles area with 35 years of flying experience, said the aircraft's last moments suggest Zobayan had started to execute a maneuver designed to pop above the clouds by flying up and forward.
“When he went into the clouds, he had a full on emergency," Sagely said. When pilots try to turn instead of sticking with the pop up maneuver, “probably in the neighborhood of 80 to 90% of the time, it’s catastrophic,” he said.
The crash occurred as the group was flying to a girls basketball tournament at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy. He coached his 13 year old daughter Gianna's team. She and two teammates were among the nine people finished. The losses shook Los Angeles and the sporting world.
Everyone at our show is so saddened & shocked over the passing of Kobe Bryant. He was a father, husband, author, incredible athlete & one of the kindest guests we’ve had on our show. Please keep his family in your thoughts & remember to cherish the ones you love every single day pic.twitter.com/841PYJlvtq— The Kelly Clarkson Show (@KellyClarksonTV) January 26, 2020
Within hours, thousands had gathered outside Staples Center, where Bryant starred for the Lakers, and began a makeshift memorial that became a massive display of flowers, candles, personal notes, basketballs and other mementos.
A public memorial for Bryant and the other sufferers is scheduled for Feb. 24 at Staples. The date 2/24 corresponds with the No. 24 jersey he wore and the No. 2 worn by Gianna.
Rest easy Legend ?? pic.twitter.com/a0lWTWacKW— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) January 26, 2020
The NTSB's report was a compilation of information and data about the flight, helicopter and pilot. It's likely to take a year for the NTSB to issue a report about the cause.
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