Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash Raises Critical Questions Amid Ongoing NTSB Investigation

Concerns about air traffic safety are still on the rise following the tragic helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others. Experts have combed through all the evidence of how the aircraft fell, and many are worried about future accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating.

The NTSB has established a relatively clear account of the flight that crashed in Calabasas, California on Sunday, Jan. 26. The Sikorsky S76-B helicopter crashed into a mountainside, apparently due to the foggy conditions and poor visibility. According to a report by The Los Angeles Times, there was no engine failure.

The Times published an editorial this week about how the investigation has effected concerns about flight safety, especially in southern California. It makes a case that the NTSB the FAA and other regulatory agencies should "take a step back and look at commercial helicopter safety in general."

It has been established that air traffic effected Bryant's flight last month. When the helicopter reached Burbank, it circled in place for 11 minutes over the Los Angeles Zoo while waiting for air traffic controllers to give it the all clear. Private jets and other helicopters were reportedly passing through the area as well.

The foggy conditions have also taken a lot of blame. The poor visibility kept other flights grounded that day, and forced pilot Ara Zobayan to maintain a low altitude, below the thick clouds. In the final leg of the journey, he was sandwiched between the clouds and the ground, following the 101 freeway as a visual guide to his route. The mountainous terrain can reportedly be disorienting from the air.

Just before the crash, Zobayan told air traffic controllers he was going to fly up over the clouds to get a better view. He would have needed to get over 4,000 to make it work, but only got 2,300 feet up before the crash. After a sharp left turn, the helicopter becan to descend rapidly, and it accelerated to 184 miles per hour before it struck the mountainside.

The company that owned the helicopter was only cleared for flights with Visual Flight Rules and Special Visual Flight Rules, not the use of instrument navigation. The Times' editorial made the case that some equipment could have made a big difference for Bryant's flight, such as a terrain awareness warning system. This gives pilots a visual and audible alert when they fly too close to obstacles, and has been cited as a missing piece in other recent helicopter crashes as well.

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The investigation into the crash is ongoing, and an official cause has not been officially determined. An FAA spokesperson told The Times that it "has collaborated with the [aerospace] industry on improving safety through new technology."

Photo credit: Getty Images