Kobe Bryant and daughter among 9 killed in California helicopter crash, weather possibly a factor

Mark Blue

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Feb 19, 2007
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Any news on how experienced this pilot was? I know to have an IFR rating takes quite a few flight hours, so I’m surprised he flew it into a mountain side.
 
He was experienced, but there was a story that just came out that the company did not have certification for flying in low visibility wx. Regardless, one of the first things I learned when I became a pilot was to NEVER allow people to alter your own decisions about flying when there is poor weather. The areas he was flying into had lower visibility than where he departed. He should have either gained altitude to a level above the highest terrain in the area or turned around. Not sure why he never requested IFR.
 
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Jun 28, 2007
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Machesney Park, IL
Any news on how experienced this pilot was? I know to have an IFR rating takes quite a few flight hours, so I’m surprised he flew it into a mountain side.
Experienced enough that he was qualified to teach people to fly in poor conditions. From a WaPo article:

"Ara Zobayan, the pilot at the controls, was experienced at flying in the area and served as Bryant’s pilot for a number of years, according to the director of a Los Angeles aviation trade group. Zobayan had held a commercial license since 2007 and was qualified to fly in bad weather under regulations known as instrument flight rules, according to FAA records. He was also qualified to teach people to fly in those conditions, indicating that he had significant experience. "

 
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Dan Robinson

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Perusing some pilot/helicopter forums, the general consensus seems to be that after the unintentional flight into IMC (instrument meteorological conditions), the pilot attempted a 180-degree turn to exit the conditions and became disoriented during that maneuver. Even though loss of all visual reference is dangerous in any aircraft, apparently helicopters are particularly vulnerable to catastrophe when turns and/or hovering is attempted in IMC. Most think that by attempting the turn, the pilot lost the "feel" of an unintentional rapid descent and didn't realize how much altitude he'd lost during the turn.
 
Regardless, he had a major advantage over fixed-wing aircraft. He could have easily hovered in IFR mode and gained safe altitude. The tower warned him at least once that a S/SW turn involved a terrain hazard. No matter how "good" you are, you are still responsible for making good judgements. Leaving the airport in such conditions, with even worse conditions along the flight path was the first fatal mistake. All other rotor-wing aircraft were grounded that morning.
 

Dan Robinson

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That's correct, the proper response to IMC entry in that situation, according to other pilots, would have been to immediately declare an emergency and climb to an altitude higher than the highest terrain, then go from there. A 180 is supposed to be used if you're at typical cruising altitude, not when you're low and definitely not when inside of a canyon like that.
 
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Apr 23, 2010
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This is why I keep pushing these:

I can see these systems used to peer into supercells, perhaps.