Company That Owned Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Didn’t Have Clearance To Fly In Poor Conditions
It’s now been just five days since one of the greatest tragedies in sports took the lives of nine people including Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant. An ongoing investigation has been underway after Bryant’s Sikorski S-76B helicopter fatally crashed in Calabasas, California, Sunday and new details have emerged.
According to three sources familiar with the charter company Island Express Helicopters which owned Bryant’s chopper, the company did not have the same clearance to fly in tough weather conditions like the pilot Ara Zobayan personally had. Although the helicopter is known for frequently transporting executives and celebrities, Zobayan did not have the “legal authority to navigate with his instruments because the air craft owner did not have the necessary federal certification,” a source told the New York Times. The company had a Federal Aviation Administration certification that only allowed pilots to under visual flight rules that require at least three miles of visibility and a cloud ceiling no lower than 1,000 feet above the ground.
When the crash occurred, the helicopter was traveling at a rate of 153 miles per hour, and fell at a rate of 23 miles per hour before crashing, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Zobayan was known as a reputable pilot and had no reported accidents on his record. Flying since 1998, he earned his commercial pilot’s license in 2007 and was a certified instructor who had logged more than 8,200 hours of flight time including 1,250 hours in the Sikorski S-76B. He had been known to fly Bryant frequently and made the same trip the day before. Zobayan had also served as a pilot for Clippers’ star Kawhi Leonard. “He was one of the best pilots,” Leonard said. “That’s a guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city.”
More details will be reported when available.