Helicopter in Kobe Bryant Crash Wasn’t Legal to Fly in Poor Visibility

The pilot who flew Mr. Bryant and seven others through deteriorating weather was qualified to fly with the use of his instruments. But the company he worked for didn’t have the needed certification.

Comments: 84

  1. But they were flying visually-- therefore they were in-line with their certification. This is a non-story. However, the aircraft and pilot were both IFR capable (though I can't speak on currency).. Ironically, had they been on an IFR plan, this most likely wouldn't have happened.

  2. @yce Agreed. From the ATC audio that I've heard, the pilot was cleared special visual flight rules (SVFR) at or below a specified altitude (I recall 2,500'), appropriately in line with the company and pilot's respective FAA certifications. It was absolutely a tragic accident, but FAA certifications are not significant in any way,

  3. It appears--as with most horrorific accidents--there are many factors that cause a tragedy like this one. The FAA and a company that did not have the correct certification seem to be players in what happened here. The lives of nine people were lost because of these factors--and of course many others including the weather. Perhaps it is time to take a detailed look at the FAA, how it operates, and how companies that fly aircraft interact with it. Perhaps this accident could have and should have been prevented.

  4. @Meg This response will make perfect sense to anyone who has absolutely no idea about aviation. I'm a certificated (fixed wing) pilot. This accident had nothing to do with the FAA. It *may* have had something to do with the safety culture of the company, or it may not have. The NTSB will find out. It had everything to do with weather and the pilot's decision-making. The pilot was not only IFR certified, meaning he could fly in clouds, he was an instrument instructor. If he was an active instructor, he told every student that he ever had not to do what he seemingly did that day. Aviation accidents are generally not simple and straightforward. Was this weather forecast? Did the pilot check the weather? Both are important questions (he is required by law to do so). Was he current on instruments?, meaning, did he have recent experience? Instrument flying skills erode quickly when not used. Is it *possible* Kobe put him under pressure to get the job done? Sure. I don't necessarily think that's what happened. The pilot likely knew they had a schedule, and waiting 15 minutes for the SVFR clearance probably put him behind schedule and may have led him to push the weather a bit. First and foremost, this was an accident. Accidents are a part of life. This one is likely a variation on a story familiar to every pilot: guy has somewhere to be, weather is a bit iffy, keeps pushing on, keeps pushing, weather deteriorates, loss of control, goodnight Irene. Sad story all around.

  5. @Mike Very good response Mike. As a person who lost a loved one in a very similar accident, most people don’t know anything about the flying community. Spatial disorientation can happen in less than a second, and by then, it is over. FAA accident reports are public records & can/should be read before people think they know what happened in this accident. Again, thanks for your comment.

  6. @Mike Is an accident the same as an unwise decision?

  7. Tragic. I hope from now on, the authorities will require Two Pilots, plus if there is fog near the flight plan, that the flight be cancelled or held, period. The Sheriff in L.A. had grounded all copters that morning. And the pilot was trained to fly by instruments, but conditions were changing quickly perhaps. It appears obvious what happened here, though it will take time to come up with a definitive answer. RIP All who died.

  8. @balmerhon No, it's not obvious to someone who knows about aviation. The FAA/NTSB hasn't issued a final report. That takes a long time, for a reason. Requiring two pilots would not only make flights way more expensive, there probably aren't even enough pilots to turn single-pilot flights into two pilot flights. There are zillions of flights every day that land safely. This is a rare exception.

  9. If hugely rich celebrities want the convenience of helicopters they best spend the amount of money to make sure the helicopter and pilot are carefully vetted.

  10. @Peter The pilot was qualified not only to fly in such weather, but to teach flying in such weather. This, as far as the pilot is concerned, was not a problem of vetting.

  11. @Peter Kobe didn't own the helicopter, it was hired. It was Island Express's responsibility to make sure the chopper and pilot were qualified and worthy.

  12. Instrument certification requires that instruments be calibrated more frequently. Shifting air pressure may have given bad altitude ratings. The story here is there should have been two pilots. Flying in marginal VFR in mountainous terrain presents quite the workload for one pilot flying a heavy high performance vehicle.

  13. @Steve Reid Good point, apparently he missed clearing the ridge only by 20-30 feet.. a faulty calibrated gauge could have been responsible.

  14. And he was climbing at the time. Almost...

  15. @Steve Reid But they weren't flying IFR. They were flying visually. "Shifting air pressure" is not a factor when you're looking out the window.

  16. Look, the pilot made a mistake. He flew into marginal weather which deteriorated. Any honest pilot will tell you it's happened to them. The question is what you do about it, turn around and find better weather or continue. It can be difficult to tell a high profile client and a copter full of people that you have to turn around; there is definite pressure there. I don't think they'll find that engine problems were the cause here. The pilot would have reported that. Reporting just takes a few seconds and is drilled into pilots at training, like a reflex. Look at Sully in the movie: first maintain aircraft control, second call it in.

  17. I’m sure the pilot didn’t want to disappoint his boss, Mr. Bryant, by telling him the weather was too bad to fly that day. But I also wonder how much pressure Kobe put on the pilot. Wasn’t anyone witness to the conversations that occurred prior to making the go/no-go decision? I’d like to hear what they had to say.

  18. @Rod Lightning With all due respect Red, I don't think if was a case of not "wanting to disappoint his boss" but rather a case in which I think this experienced pilot thought he could handle the situation. It wasn't until that fog that was so thick and all encompassing suddenly rolled in and then the question of what to do is unanswered because tragedy occurred before anyone could do anything. The pilot never had a chance to call the tower to issue help or even a mayday alert.

  19. @Rod Lightning The real story.

  20. @Marge Keller Nah, he was in the muck the whole time he was waiting for that SVFR clearance by Burbank airport. He knew the weather was dodgy for a good while before they ultimately crashed. And your priorities in that situation are aviate, navigate, and communicate, in that order. Talking to ATC at that point isn’t going to help.

  21. Even though the pilot was qualified to fly using instruments, and the helicopter was equipped with the necessary instruments, he was prohibited from doing so because the company owning the helicopter lacked the necessary certification. So what would have happened if the pilot had decided to use the instruments anyway, when conditions got so bad that flying visually became truly dangerous? Could it have saved their lives, even if he was breaking the law?

  22. My thought exactly. As a former aviator, common sense should have prevailed, overriding the rules, when safety comes first. This was a tragic situation.

  23. The instruments weren’t certified so it’s unknown if they would give reliable readings. The pilot very well may have used them, but lacking proper maintenance they could provide faulty data.

  24. Under 14 CFR FAR 91.3(b) a pilot is allowed to deviate from any rule in an emergency. He can be violated for bad judgment that got him into the bad situation after the fact though. Small correction for the article: Operating under “Special VFR” is not an IFR operation. It just requires operations clear of clouds vs. requirement for 3 miles flight visibility. It doesn’t appear that this was a violation of the company’s authorizations.

  25. Didn't anyone learn from the chopper crash that ended the life of Stevie Ray Vaughn? The chopper crashed into a large hill at Alpine Valley, WI. The cause was poor visibility due to fog.

  26. The FAA drops the ball again. Maybe deregulating the department of safety in flying was a bad idea? Like everyone said at the time? Anyone? Hello?

  27. @Bobotheclown How is the FAA responsible for a pilot flying in conditions he's not supposed to?

  28. @Coyoty Did you read the article? He was allowed to fly under those conditions. Unfortunately, as we all now, Murphey’s Law prevailed and the conditions worsened. The pilot could not have predicted a rapid change in weather.

  29. @Desire Trails He was allowed to fly SVFR---that means clear of clouds. He was NOT cleared to fly in clouds. Yes of course he would be expected to predict the lowering of the cloud deck---the terrain was rising! Don't blame the FAA for a pilot's bad judgment. The pilot is solely responsible for the safety of the flight, not FAA. A SVFR clearance means you are not interfering with other IFR traffic as a VFR flight, it doesn't mean you can deviate from minimums

  30. As a commercial maritime operator, I can attest that commercial pressure is factor in safe operations. However when there is an incident the operator is culpable. This needs to change.

  31. @Anonymous what makes this even more sad is that 9 lives were lost for a teenage girl's basketball game. It wasn't even anything of major importance, something that happens in thousands of communities on any given weekend.

  32. I am not a pilot. One doesn't need to be in order to go through a mental checklist of what could go wrong in such instances. I was just telling a friend yesterday that another pilot would have been a big help. This would have enabled the main pilot, who was on concentration overload, to continue trying to avoid death, while the second pilot could switch over to instrument flight. It may not be just one "on" switch. I just don't know. My guess is that the main Mr. Zobayan would have opted to break rules and get to the instruments that could augment visual flight in order to survive in such conditions. Unfortunately it was just a perfect storm, in which split-second decisions ended up lasting nine lifetimes.

  33. @Brian W. You admittedly know diddly squat about aviation, but feel qualified to offer an opinion anyway. Got it.

  34. @Bob S Don't be so judgmental. Take it easy. "Out of the mouth of babes ..." I have 6,000 hours in S-76s and not one of those hours was flown without a second pilot. In an aircraft as complex as the S-76 it is a good idea to have another brain aboard. BTW & strangely enough, the regs are written so that a manufacturer can sidestep crucial requirements. If the S-76 was not certified by Sikorsky as a single-pilot aircraft, they would have been required to install a flight-data recorder in every single one. That, plus they would surely have lost a few sales with a two-pilot requirement. Avoiding added expense & weight is the holy grail for aircraft designers and manufacturers. The same is true for operators. A second pilot is added expense and added weight.

  35. If anyone wants to see history repeating itself, go back in time and read about the conditions under which Bill Graham and his partner died in a helicopter crash in Northern California.

  36. @Desire Trails JFK JR plane crash is a similar story.

  37. @MKR A new pilot without an instrument rating isn't comparable to a commercial pilot who's also a flight instructor.

  38. Transitioning suddenly from visual flying to instruments can be difficult If you are turning and climbing and suddenly lose all visual references, it can be even more disorienting. One can assume the pressure you feel in your seat is the aircraft turning and climbing, but the sensation is the same for turning and descending. Mr Zobayan almost certainly had enough instruments to fly safely out of the cloud cover. The fact that the airplane didn't IFR certification is a technicality.

  39. This is yet another example where a company management has insufficient training or experience in the risks involved. This often means that the wrong decisions will be made - either by them or their employees. No doubt Mr. Zobayan felt this pressure, and probably the pressure by a high profile client to get to his destination...a client who had no particular aviation experience, was so was clueless as to the risks involved. This scenario plays its way out in countless ways in other industries. My major experience is in intrinsically safe electronics: where products are destined for explosive environments, and so are designed by special rules. In that design environment it quickly becomes apparent which company managements are aware of the risks, and which ones aren't. Often, the only solution by the employee is to refuse the risk, and get fired. Their position is the same as a whistle-blower. Today, this scenario is playing itself out in the security of semiconductor chips. Colleges and Universities are demanding the right to be in charge of the problem, yet they have no practical experience in dealing with organized crime tactics - the major method by which MALWARE is introduced into semiconductor chips. And because of their lack of experience, they are making ill-informed and risky decisions that will affect all of us in the years to come.

  40. "struggling to avoid clouds"? no one has proof. Someone saw the helicopter smoking before it crashed and someone took a video of his helicopter. How can you take a video if fog is so thick? Another asked this: Why did the copter fly so far East to Glendale when there were many more direct routes to get from Orange County to Camarillo? Why didn’t the pilot follow the 405 to the 101? Just to avoid weather/visibility issues? The fault of pilot and weather are really being pushed.

  41. @That's What She Said Why try to whip up a conspiracy? If the coast was foggier than inland, why wouldn't he have wanted to let Burbank airport control and then shoot across the Valley? It was definitely socked in that morning.

  42. @Blair Conspiracy? Gimme a Break. Why aren't more questions being asked. According to LATimes in the past few months he didn't take this route. It's January-weather is bad at the end of the year not just in January. It's when the answers precede the questions one has to wonder

  43. @Blair Since when is it a conspiracy to ask further questions. Sure Let's have the answers precede the questions.

  44. Visual flight rules (VFR) into instrument meteorological conditions (basically clouds) is a major cause of all aircraft accidents. Even the best pilots can become disoriented. He got caught by the weather. As a pilot, it happens. Unfortunately, this happens more than the public knows. This is just a highlight.

  45. No doubt the pilot felt pressured to complete the flight so as not to lose his wealthy and famous client who didn't want to be bothered with traffic. That is always the dynamic, and has been the cause of many an accident, and disaster.

  46. @AR I always think of the regular folk on the plane, who might have not felt free to voice their concerns. I agree that people get very intimidated by power and wealth and fame. No. one knows what happened but it is a scenario that makes sense.

  47. I recall reading from the beginning when this tragedy was first reported that the skies were clear when this helicopter left the airport. It was only when that thick fog suddenly descended the entire area while they were already in the air that the pilot found themselves in a situation that turned fatal. A similar occurrence resulted in the ill-fated flight of John Kennedy, Jr. which resulted in his death and those of his wife and sister-in-law. What I never understood with pilots who fly small planes and/or helicopters is why they would limit their training and certification to only visual flight rules rather than to include the added certification of instrument training. Bad weather, fog, unpredictable and sudden weather changes can and do happen. Why be unprepared? In this case, not being instrument trained and certified not only cost the pilot, who was a very capable and experienced pilot, his life but the 8 lives aboard his aircraft. I apologize if my comment appears to be snarky against pilots. That is NOT my intent. Hopefully some very seasoned pilots could shed some light on my rhetorical question. Sincere condolences to the families, loved ones and friends of all nine individuals who perished on Sunday morning.

  48. @Marge Keller, there are many valid reasons why a pilot would choose to "limit their training and certification to only visual flight rules..." Instrument training is not inexpensive, and one has to regularly fly or practice in instrument meteorological conditions to remain proficient. For many operations, it's simply not necessary. As a private pilot who has chosen to not pursue instrument training at this time, I well understand the dilemma. Yes, weather can be unpredictable, but it is incumbent upon the pilot to always remain hyper-vigilant as to what the weather is doing currently, if and how it's changing, and what's happening on your route ahead. There are many options available nowadays for weather monitoring, well within the capability of any pilot. I fly for pleasure, not business, but I do understand the expectations of family and friends, and it's my job as a safety conscious pilot to sometimes disappoint. There have been plenty of times I've had to leave earlier or later than planned, or land short of my destination, for weather considerations. Also, it wasn't "not being instrument trained and certified" that cost the pilot his and his passengers' lives -- he WAS instrument trained and certified. It was, perhaps, the choice to not utilize that training. Time will tell. Finally, a minor point, but the comparison to JFK Jr. is not valid. He was not instrument trained or capable, plus he chose to fly with a likely distracting medical condition.

  49. @Marge Keller It is very difficult and expensive to get an instrument rating. Learning to fly is difficult enough, but going for an IFR (instrument) rating is far more difficult. I am a private pilot. Perhaps the biggest challenge of my life (even more than grad school) was earning my instrument rating. I did so because one of the most common causes of fatal aircraft accidents in genera aviation is accidentally flying from VFR into instrument conditions. I did not want to be another statistic. By the way, the story makes it clear that the pilot WAS instrument trained and certified. It was the company that was not approved for flight in instrument conditions.

  50. @BrianR Thanks for clarifying and sharing this information. Much appreciated.

  51. So sad. This sounds so similar to the JFK jr flight. No flight plan, only one pilot. Hubris gets in the way sometimes and tragedy follows.

  52. As least JFK Jr. didn’t put anyone else in jeopardy.

  53. @Sally L. JFK jr's plane was equipped with autopilot, if he had only had the presence of mind to activate it.

  54. @Suburban Cowboy His girlfriend accompanied him and she also died. Her family received a settlement for this tragic accident.

  55. Retired after 45 year career as a helicopter pilot. It is often the case that the company owning and operating the helicopter does not have certification from the FAA authorizing flight under Instrument conditions. However, any pilot in command who finds themselves to be inadvertent IMC can declare an emergency, turn and climb clear of the potential contact with terrain, and in this case, contact SoCal approach, with whom he had already spoken, and ask for vectors for an approach to an airfield or to VFR conditions if available. You will have to explain yourself to the FAA /NTSB but that is much better than 9 fatalities. This pilot was apparently well qualified for instrument flight so this might well have been a pretty simple solution subsequent paperwork notwithstanding.

  56. @Wayne Arrington Well said, Wayne. Operating certificate or no, the pilot is the ultimate decision maker in the aircraft. Better to ask for forgiveness than to die because you were not willing to ask for permission.

  57. @Wayne Arrington Unless there was a mechanical failure this is ultimately what the NTS report will say in far more words- pilot error compounded by weather conditions. The pilot might have been IFR qualified but there is a difference between qualified and absolutely prepared. Many IFR qualified pilots rely subconsciously on visual cues- most of IFR training is getting a pilot to trust in the instruments entirely and not what they see, hear, or feel. Being IFR qualified and never flying in those conditions leaves greater room for error but the pilot has been trained how to deal with the situation. People don't always do as they have been trained, even instructors. Conditions and flight workload can increase rapidly and while in IMC if the pilot took his eyes off the instrucments even for 30 seconds or less and got disoriented- might not have been able to recover given the low altitude and terrain.

  58. I think it's too bad there is no recording of the conversation in the plane between the pilot and, say. Mr. Bryant. Or with another passenger. Did they discuss going back to the Burbank airport? Did Mr. Bryant urge the pilot to continue? Were other passengers concerned about the fog? We'll never know. And, I'm not saying the public should her such conversations, but it would help the NTSB perhaps.

  59. General rule: Helicopters are dangerous. Don't use them unless there is no alternative. Sit in traffic like everyone else, even if you are so rich you can afford a helicopter. The military, off-shore oil rigs, and medical emergency evacuations have no alternative. You do. This accident sounds like an example of schedule pressure or customer pressure: Customer wanted to get to the destination on time, and subtly (or not so subtly) pressured the pilot to take unnecessary risks.

  60. @Jonathan Katz A helicopter, indeed, any moving vehicle, is only as dangerous as its operators. It's likely that you're safer in an S76, 1500 feet overhead, than you are sitting in that traffic on an average day. Making a general rule based on one (or a handful) of highly newsworthy crashes is simply not supported by facts. Of course, you always have a decision whether to do something that increases your risk of injury or death. If you want to keep that risk close to zero, you need to stay home, under the bedclothes, where the only risk is coronary atrophy.

  61. My uncle was a world-renowned Stunt pilot, who did the flying for many well known movies in Hollywood and was licensed to fly every type of aircraft except spacecraft. He died in the late 70s when his small plane crashed in the Santa Ana Mountains, due to windshear it was speculated at the time. He had flown that route hundreds of times from San Diego to LA, so it was routine for him and very familiar... So sorry for everyone involved in this tragedy.

  62. This tragedy feels totally unnecessary and related to the egregious risk taking that caused the Boeing 737 Max crashes. The prioritizing of all the experts has been totally on profit, while the very real, deadly risks of these aircraft has been underplayed and ignored by FAA, and in the case of helicopters, airlines and airports. Time for a serious overview of helicopter flight practices and passengers need to be made totally aware when they are flying that they are doing so with zero radar capability that could run into deadly danger in poor visibility and with a singly pilot. Had Kobe Bryant and the other passengers known this, they may well have chosen to turn back. I know at least some helicopters departing Manhattan heliports rely on visual navigation alone and witnessed a helicopter remaining grounded until visibility improved, on location for a tv shoot.

  63. I would appreciate if the authors of this piece could clarify. As I read the piece, the pilot had an instrument rating (and commercial and instructor ratings, btw.) As I read the piece, the aircraft was IFR-equipped. The operator (Island Express) was not certified to carry paying passengers in IFR conditions. So, does that mean that the pilot was *prohibited* from looking at the artificial horizon or the GPS? I don't think so, but please clarify. Was the aircraft equipped with a radio-altimeter? (This is a device that accurately measures the distance between the aircraft and the ground.) This is particularly relevant since the theory is that the pilot flew a functioning aircraft into the ground. Once the pilot was flying in cloud, he was violating the FARs (Federal Aviation Rules). As a pilot, I can tell you that if I found myself in cloud, even without an IFR flight plan, I would not avoid looking at *all* the instruments on general principles. Thus, the fact that he was flying VFR in clouds might not have very much to do with what caused the accident.

  64. @Rufus "So, does that mean that the pilot was *prohibited* from looking at the artificial horizon or the GPS? I don't think so, but please clarify." Absolutely not. The FAA doesn't regulate your eyes. (although don't give them any ideas!)

  65. @Rufus the apparent fact that he was flying in the clouds without an IFR clearance has everything to do with the crash.

  66. @Rufus I think (and this is speculation) as a highly qualified IFR Heli pilot and instructor, he could fly the helicopter under IFR rules, but the operator wasn't licensed to operate their fleet and file an IFR flight plan. So as the visibility deteriorated, he knew he couldn't just call ATC for a "pop-up" IFR clearance. I have done this in a fixed wing Aerostar, and ATC will ask for your license number sometimes.

  67. Human error and decisions result in crashes and loss of life everyday. This one gets attention because Kobe was involved. The lesson to all, pay attention to the environment when driving or flying. And, the best thing to do is to be patient, slow down, and get there alive, whether on time or delayed. And be mindful that others may be impacted by your decisions, lack of patience, or lack of concern for others. May they all Rest In Peace.

  68. Typical company: putting profits over people. And maybe even typical guy (pilot): being overconfident in one's abilities. Sad.

  69. It reminds me story of Titanic on so many levels...So unfair

  70. What has always mystified me was the helicopter “accident” in which three Trump Casino executives where killed over a very remote section of the Jersey Pine Barrens in 1989. It wasn’t a “TRUMP” helicopter, but one rented especially to bring the three back to Atlantic City after a meeting in New York. The thing about it is that the helicopter did not crash. Rather, it fell apart in mid-air, with the main front rotor, rear rotor and transmission literally falling off the aircraft, according to officials, the front rotor landing a quarter mile away from the crash site. Why, has never been determined. Trump, of course, has then and recently stated that he himself almost died, had he been aboard which he wasn’t, that is. Heard lots of stories back then on construction sites. But my ongoing advise to anyone in anyway connected to the current impeachment is never get on a rented helicopter on an errand for The Donald. https://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/11/nyregion/copter-crash-kills-3-aides-of-trump.html

  71. That's what you get for all your money and being an elitist ,, six feet under . Meanwhile the world goes on just like any other day .As they say we 're all going sooner or later so deal with it.

  72. Hindsight is always 20/20.Does anybody ever think how this news must be ripping the family?

  73. ...on the bright side the free market will punish the pilot and his company, regulation not needed. Right?

  74. Zobayan was described as a seasoned pilot therefore he had the option to refuse to fly in this instance where conditions presented risks of which he would have been well aware. His cavalier behavior reminds me of the well worn saying.... .....there are "bold" pilots and "old" pilots....however... ....there are few if any "old bold" pilots

  75. Special VFR ? Rapidly rising terrain ? Are we part 91 here or part 135? S76 bought from the Bankrupt state of Illinois? 10 yr old helicopter? Deferred maintenance? S76 current value of $1 million? Annual costs of $1 million per year. What’s not to go wrong?

  76. If he was limited to no less than 3 miles visibility and no less than a 1000-foot ceiling, then it was illegal for him to request a Special VFR clearance"?? "Island Express Helicopters, which owned the Sikorsky S-76B, had a Federal Aviation Administration operating certification that limited its pilots to flying under what are known as visual flight rules, or V.F.R., with at least three miles of visibility and a cloud ceiling no lower than 1,000 feet above the ground."

  77. @John Special VFR clearance is mostly to alert ATC that a possibly not IFR instrumented/piloted aircraft is attempting to get clear of poor weather conditions and maintain its flight. It is supposed to specify an altitude and vector so that other properly instrumented and piloted aircraft can be steered away and ATC will maintain closer contact. Ideally, if there is no terrain and the aircraft can maintain level flight the poor weather conditions are clear within minutes. Flying is not 100% safe and has so many rules/training because unlike a car a mistake can cost dozens to hundreds of lives rather than a single or handful. Once a VFR flight goes into IFR/IMC the pilot should usually turn around directly to escape the weather IF that is possible while maintaining level flight, talk to ATC to alert them, emergency land if visibility is above nil, climb until out of the fog/clouds. 75% of the time an unqualified VFR pilot stays in poor visibilty that requires instruments to navigate for more than 6 minutes a fatality results. Most pilot succumb to spatial dislocation within 100 seconds of losing sight of the horizon. In this case, the pilot was qualified for IFR and had the equipment onboard but probably hadn't done much training on IFR given normal conditions in southern California. The reason a business that offers IFR certification is reluctant if it doesn't operate in those conditions very often is the cost of regular training to maintain that certificaiton.

  78. Whether it be on the part of the pilot or the customer, get-there-itis kills far too often. This whole thing is a crying shame.

  79. Two pilot operations should be the norm for this aircraft no matter the weather. The cockpit design and numerous systems are only fully effective with 2 crew. If the non flying pilot was there he/she would call for a correction and the flying pilot would correct. If the flying pilot had lost his scan and was disorientated then the non flying pilot would note this and say "I have control". Mistakes and errors are common in the cockpit. It happens more than you know in 2 pilot operations, and it is this safety net that keeps 2 pilot operators alive every day. Check out the White Paper on the Dangers of Single Pilot Operations from alpa.org

  80. While this latest revelation may prove helpful in adding safeguards to future helicopters, it only raises the demand for answers to the hard questions which the remains of nine people scattered across a fog shrowded canyon last Sunday morning deserve to be asked. Was the pilot told of the decision to ground all of LAPD helicopters over the 101 Freeway near the crash site? Did the pilot ask for the latest weather conditions at the Camarillo Airport the the intended set down location. Did Burbank Traffic Control. Were alternative plans considered, landing at Van Nuys Airport and driving the rest of the way. Did anyone at the Burbank Tower question the need to risk flying in such poor conditions. Was that question asked of the pilot. Was a flight plan filed before departure from Orange County. Was Mr. Bryant's voice heard in the background during communications with the pilot. How many times had the pilot flown in the mountains and canyons surrounding the 101 . And finally, would normal VFR flying procedures found the morning of the crash have included flying at nearly 165 mph in dense fog ?

  81. There was an interview with a former pilot of this helicopter company done by ET on Monday which is on youtube. I saw it earlier in the week, and he explained when asked why the pilot wouldn't have been on VFR and he said "the company wasn't licensed for it" I had wondered why this hadn't been more newsworthy, good to see it here.

  82. The video stated flight following is for “tracking aircraft in rough conditions.” This is completely wrong. Flight following has nothing to do with weather conditions. The only reason an aircraft gets flight following is so they can talk with controllers to get radar advisories.

  83. Two questions come to mind regarding the pilot's decisions: 1) why didn't he take a more direct route over the ocean (perhaps the aircraft wasn't certified over water, or the route conflicts with LAX airspace); and 2) why didn't he hover or proceed very slowly as he was climbing over the hills (unlike planes that must keep up their airspeed)? Seems that he had more flexibility to maneuver safely given the conditions.

  84. The media seems to be hung up on Special VFR rules. Special VFR rules only pertain inside the Controlled Airspace associated with an airport inside Class B, C, D, or E Airspace (FAA alphabet soup) to facilitate separation of IFR and VFR traffic and to permit the operation of VFR traffic in visibility and ceiling below the basic requirement of 1000 ft ceiling and 3 miles visibility. It is a necessary and frequently used tool for the safe and efficient handling of air traffic. In the final minutes preceding the accident, the helicopter was operating under Basic VFR rules of FAR 91.155 with the pilot assuming complete responsibility for cloud clearance, obstacle and terrain clearance and traffic separation. Once clear of the VNY Class D airspace, handed off to SoCal approach and with a VFR transponder code of 1200, the helicopter was no longer operating under Special VFR rules of FAR 91.157. Special VFR operations were not a proximate cause of this mishap.