Flying through the Fog, Kobe Bryant Helicopter Has No Warning System

Investigator of a helicopter crash carrying Kobe Bryant revealed that the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter does not have a terrain avoidance and warning system (TAWS). In fact, the helicopter flew in the midst of foggy weather and crossed hilly areas on unlucky days on Sunday (1/26/2020).

Kobe Bryant Helicopter

In a press conference held by the US KNKT (NTSB) on Tuesday (1/28/2020), they said that there was no terrain warning system that could notify the pilot if there were hills around the helicopter flight path. Quoted from Business Insider, the Sikorsky S-76B helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others failed to avoid the hilltop, around 20-30 feet (approximately 9 meters).

Weather during the flight was also reported to be foggy, with visibility referred to only around 2.5 miles (4 km), according to the Los Angeles police (LAPD) helicopter pilot when he arrived at the crash site. Although foggy, the Kobe Bryant helicopter has received special permission (Special Visual Flight Rules) to fly in the middle of the weather. The permit is needed because the helicopter flies in more severe weather conditions than the standard in general.

The helicopter flew north from the Orange County, California area, after takeoff and circled near the Burbank area, waiting for permission to continue flying. With this special permit, the N72EX-registered helicopter can penetrate the Burbank airspace where the weather is foggy, especially in the Calabasas mountain region, where the helicopter was found to fall.

Reported by The Straits Times, a special permit granted by ATC did allow helicopters to fly Burbank and Van Nuys airspace, but was prohibited from continuing to the Calabasas area. Before losing contact, the helicopter pilot had asked for a “flight following” to the ATC, this made it able to continue to track the helicopter’s whereabouts, and make regular radio contact.

ATC was heard saying that the helicopter was cutting too low to get a flight following from them, for example it did not appear on the radar screen or the radio sound was not heard. The recording of the conversation between the ATC and the helicopter pilot carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others can be listened to in the following video.

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