Causes of the Kobe Bryant Tragedy

Not only did it take off in poor weather conditions, but the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant also lacked a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS).

“The helicopter was not equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), so the pilot was unaware of the situation when flying into a foggy area,” shared Jennifer Homendy, a representative of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “TAWS could certainly be helpful in situations like this, although I cannot conclude that it could have prevented the accident.”

TAWS would sound an alarm if the aircraft approached a hazardous area. The investigation’s findings revealed that in the final moments, the pilot Ara Zobayan reported dense fog ahead. Air traffic control staff at Burbank Airport then asked about his action plan but received no response from Zobayan. Previously, the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight other victims had been circling for 15 minutes, with limited visibility. The tragedy ended with the aircraft exploding after free-falling onto the California hillside at a descent rate of 609m per minute.

The weather over Los Angeles on the morning of January 26 was so bad that local police air support couldn’t take off. Despite the dangerous weather, Ara Zobayan, a pilot with 20 years of experience, still flew the Sikorsky S-76 at nearly 300 km/h. This is why he is considered to bear some responsibility for the tragedy. Many pilots believe that Zobayan should have been flying at 30 km/h at that time.

The scene of the accident

“The accident occurred at high speed,” Homendy added. “The NTSB has advised that helicopter models like the Sikorsky S-76 should install TAWS, following a 2004 Texas accident that killed 10 people. Within 10 days, we will provide a preliminary report on the incident. In 12-18 months, we hope to deliver the most comprehensive report, including causes, recommendations, and other details discovered.”

The ill-fated flight took the lives of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other victims. The intended destination of the flight was the Mamba Sports Academy, where Gianna and her teammates were supposed to have a basketball game. In the past few days, the atmosphere at the U.S. professional basketball league has been somber due to this tragedy.

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