Advertisement

Helicopter company in Kobe Bryant crash didn’t have certificate to fly in fog

Kobe Bryant death: Company whose helicopter crashed not certified to fly in fog
WATCH ABOVE: Kobe Bryant death: Company whose helicopter crashed not certified to fly in fog

The company whose helicopter crashed and killed basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others on Sunday was not certified to fly in foggy conditions requiring pilots to use only cockpit instruments, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Island Express Helicopters, which owned the Sikorsky S-76B that crashed, was limited to operating under visual flight rules, meaning pilots must be able to see clearly outside the aircraft in daylight, said Keith Holloway, a National Transportation Safety Board spokesman.

Kobe Bryant memorial to be cleared outside Staples Center
Kobe Bryant memorial to be cleared outside Staples Center

“The preliminary information is Island Express’s 135 certificate did not allow for IFR flight,” Holloway said. “No other specifics are available at this time.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Beyoncé opens up about Kobe Bryant’s death: ‘You are deeply missed’

The aircraft was equipped for instrument flying, however, multiple media reports said.

“There is only one way you can be in the clouds, on an I.F.R. flight plan or by accident,” Kurt Deetz, a pilot and former safety manager with the company, told the New York Times, referring to instrument flight rules.

Jennifer Lopez, Shakira reflect on death of Kobe Bryant
Jennifer Lopez, Shakira reflect on death of Kobe Bryant

Holloway told Reuters on Friday that it was unknown if the pilot was in fact flying on instruments at the time of the wreck. He said a preliminary report on the crash, expected in about 10 days, may include such a determination, Holloway said.

The helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, was licensed for instrument flying, but likely had little experience in doing so given the company’s operating limitations, Deetz told Forbes separately.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Comedian Ari Shaffir responds after backlash over Kobe Bryant comments

The twin-engine helicopter slammed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, with clouds and fog limiting visibility.

Air traffic controllers had given Zobayan “special visual flight rules,” or clearance to fly in the less-than-optimal weather around the Burbank airport.

The pilot had reported that conditions were sufficient for visual flight, the Times said, adding that the weather appeared to have worsened as the flight continued.

In a separate statement, Island Express said it was suspending all services.

Los Angeles Lakers preparing tribute to Kobe Bryant ahead of Friday’s game
Los Angeles Lakers preparing tribute to Kobe Bryant ahead of Friday’s game

“The shock of the accident affected all staff, and management decided that service would be suspended until such time as it was deemed appropriate for staff and customers,” the charter company said.

Story continues below advertisement

The death of Bryant, 41, an 18-time NBA all-star and one of the most admired athletes around the globe, sent shockwaves through the sports and entertainment worlds.