Helicopter in Kobe Bryant crash wasn’t certified for instruments-only flight

The company that owned the helicopter on which Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed Sunday was not certified to fly passengers under instrument flight rules — which is often used during inclement weather — though it was equipped to do so and the pilot was IFR-rated, according to reports.

Ara Zobayan was licensed to fly using instruments alone, but the operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration limited Island Express Helicopters’ pilots to fly only under visual flight rules, or VFR, the New York Times reported, citing three sources familiar with the firm’s operations.

On Thursday, the company announced it would suspend all regular and charter services.

The late pilot had received what’s known as “special visual flight rules,” or SVFR, to fly in foggy conditions in the minutes before the Sikorsky S-76B slammed into a suburban Los Angeles hillside, killing all aboard.

Under VFR, pilots must have at least three miles of visibility and a cloud ceiling of no less than 1,000 feet above the ground.

Though the chopper carried IFR-approved instruments, the company did not have certification for their use and Zobayan, who was properly rated, likely had little real-world IFR experience, Kurt Deetz, a former pilot for the company who flew Bryant for two years, told Forbes.

The last radio communication from Zobayan was that he was climbing to avoid a cloud layer.

“I don’t think he had any actual [experience] inside the clouds,” said Deetz, who noted that it can be unnerving for pilots limited to operating under VFR. “You spend your whole career thinking, ‘I shouldn’t do this.’ ”

The FAA’s limitations on Island Express’s operations are not unusual, according to The Times.

NTSB Investigators Continue To Work On Site Of Kobe Bryant's Helicopter CrashInvestigators work at the scene of the helicopter crash which killed NBA star Kobe Bryant in Calabasas

View Slideshow

Source: Read Full Article