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The Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash: Aviation Wrestles With Decades-Old Problem

A familiar problem in the aviation industry — and something it's wrestled with for decades: getting pilots to turn around or divert when the path ahead starts to look bad. ( More...

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ffrcobra1 20
If you are going to fly in marginal VFR conditions, you better have an “out” and be willing to use it. If turning around isn’t something you are willing to do, you need to be in equipment that is IFR capable and you need to be IFR rated AND proficient. Just having the rating in your pocket doesn’t mean jack if you can’t do the dance when required.
royalbfh 9
I fly a Jet for a company. Even at FL400 i always have an "out". Its just a prudent and safe way to fly. Its tough to make some pilots think that way though.
jmilleratp 3
You also have to factor in: Changing from VFR to IFR enroute when you are single pilot. You have to be on the radio and get on an IFR flight plan. You have to get out charts. You have to plot course to an airport with an IFR approach. So, it's preferable to have made the decision to go IFR before departure.
Steve Cutchen 1
I recall Kobe's pilot taught IFR. But didn't that helicopter require double pilots for IFR? (I'm not a pilot)
Jim Magee 1
I believe the service that owned the helicopter wasn't authorized to operate IFR.
bentwing60 1
Kinda makes you wonder who was rubber stampin' his helicopter II (instrument instructor) certificate,cause he wasn't using it at 'home'. He was the 'II' chief pilot for a while and if they wanted an IFR approval in the company manual, with customers like Koby, they'd a bought it.

To Steve, "S-76 is approved for single-pilot IFR operations when appropriately equipped", but I bet it has a whole bunch of requirements in the MEL.
Tom Bruce 1
he didn't file an IFR plan..he asked for, waited, and was given a "special VFR" clearance... navigate on your own..
report landing... no controller involvement other than clearing out the area until hello on the ground...
bentwing60 1
Pretty sure you are a controller, and you know my background, we mighta' been on the same frequency from time to time. I know the scenario and the LAPD guys were grounded. For ceilings and vis.

If the helicopter was not qualified per type certificate data sheet for IFR, that is one thing, but if it was, well then why wouldn't a II chief pilot have approval for it in the company manual? We don't know all the story.
Tom Bruce 1
seems to me he asked for special VFR... I remember reading that... but I'm old..and..and..and..

big difference between Spec VFR and ITR clearance.. as you know, pilot on his own
bentwing60 1
I'm the only pilot I know that ever picked up the mic. and requested a 'contact approach', into ASE, and the controller didn't know what it Meant! Nor did my co-pilot. Shortly there after, a new voice, said "747GM cleared for the contact approach". First one in that day.

I get it, but I don't. How does a guy with that equipment and qualifications do That if the cuffs match the collar?
Highflyer1950 20
Not much point in piling on the do’s and don’ts. This accident will be the poster child for the next dozen years or so as a reminder that it doesn't matter how rich or important you think you are......there are limitations to everything and everybody. It is absolutely no disgrace to say even after airborne...” I don’t like this we’re going back or we are landing now!”
ADXbear 4
Cant legislate common sence or good judgement.

The mighty dollar and "got to get there itis" kills alot of people in the charter businesses.
linbb 9
The pilot knew what the limits were and was trying to do something he should never have done. The fellow was supposed to be a great pilot but good sense was not one of them. Just the long and short of it he had pushed before and wanted the flight as it was good money in his pocket. Not the first time its happened either.
If LAPD is grounded, I'm grounded, If I'm rich and do not care about aviation or anything related to flying an aircraft, I have a "GUY" who does and I keep him on retainer to ask the simple question, would you fly there now? Rich enough to commute by helicopter, but now smart enough to protect himself and his family.
A charted jet, SNA to VNY (which was open) Limo ride of 45 and we wouldn't be talking here, simple solution to a simple problem
john baugh 1
They flew right off the north end of VNY. It's only twenty minutes on a Sunday morning to their destination by car. The "no brainer" was to land at VNY to a waiting limo and the game would be delayed , at the most, 20 minutes. Also, their destination was a parking lot next to the facility, not a heliport or airport with instrument approaches. The pilot was incredibly stupid.
Mark Storm 2
Many aviation accidents don't happen all at once but are a sequence of incrementally bad decisions resulting in tragedy. Terrain sensor wouldn't have helped with spatial disorientation. The only reason why politicians are involved is that the crash involved a popular and famous person.
Tom Bruce 2
think he requested a "Special VFR" clearance and waited for it to be granted giving him the freedom to find his way to landing on his own... as a controller rarely had one requested and usually was to climb thru fog on departure...had to clear everyone else out of the way in order to grant clearance and then wait for plot to report clear of fog before I could allow ops to resume... Tower control So Lake Tahoe.. crash every 2 weeks during summer Sunday PMs... density alt 9500 ft, wind 15-25 K with downdrafts and turn over last 1/3 of runway
...everyone had to get home after the weekend..
travistx 1
I don't even like driving through heavy fog, so I can imagine what the pilot was going through. Me, I would have told Kobe to call an Uber or Lyft, because we're going to the nearest airport where VFR was still available.
Frank Tocci 1
Why wasn’t this guy instrument rated flying a highly advanced rotorcraft. Pure and simple spatial disorientation.
ffrcobra1 1
He WAS instrument rated, but obviously not proficient and very likely not current. Another shining example of “just because you can to do something, doesn’t mean you should.
Tom Bruce 1
wasn't flying IFR ...was "special VFR" big difference
chalet 1
It baffles me that Synthetic Vision technology it has not been adopted in a much wider manner by airlines, corporate jets, helicopters, etc. Pilots with little or even negligible IFR experience can get out of serious situations without any problem.
Fred Bailey 1
What goes up must come down the age old problem.
Fred Patton 1
It just makes good sense,whether you travel by Plane,Car,Bus or any Transportation always
have a "PLAN B", just in case !! And hope never t have use it.
Ross Selvidge 1
Get-home-itis is a killer.
But then again you don't want to lose face. Do you?
AWAAlum 1
Better to lose face than lose lives.
Jim Weil 1
Reminds me of a common aviation saying I heard years ago."There are old pilots and bold pilots but no old and bold pilots."
Tried to climb too rapidly at too great a forward airspeed. Retreating-Blade Stall.
patrick baker 1
marginal vfr competency was not the root of this preventable crash; Kobe was not in charge of the flight- he may not have even suspected the danger he was going into, with a ifr pilot who was grossly out of his element, criminally incompetent, a virtual kamakazi, irresponsible , - not much good to say about this flight and its pilot. Might have been a good idea to have another pilot up front- couldn't have hurt, but it is fair to surmise the pilot was a failure as an instrument pilot that day. Vfr pilots get caught in a weather trap when going into conditions beyond their capability-sometimes a 180 can help. My guess this is 100% PILOT ERROR. horrible, sad.....find something to take away from this and never forget it........
bentwing60 3
We have been talkin about "taking something away from" VFR into MVFR into forecast or not IFR fatals for my entire career. Even amongst the pros. it hasn't stopped the 'I got away with it before guys' and another NTSB report, that almost always represents an airplane or helicopter fatal accident. See the heli. EMS accident, not incident, records.

This thread is fairly well populated by 'long time pros.' that, I suspect like me, are tired of the constant bashing of pros. by bug smasher, Xbox, keyboard cowboys that will never know the pressure of Part 135 celebrity, bigwig, sorta wealthy, "Don't you know who I am" pax. And the expectation of management that 'You Will Make It Happen', because, oh you know, the Money.

When I cancelled a part 91 trip for weather, I still got paid! When you cancel a 135 trip for weather, that's when the fight starts. But when they knew you were right, they'd still call, especially when the weather sucked.

My observations and 3 or 4 AM replies here are the result of a fairly significant background of part 135 Lear 20 series, Falcon 20 freight experience. The stupid mantra was "Why bother callin about the weather, you're goin anyway". My calls to FS were to file flight plans, and get my ass kicked the least. No FltPlan. com. No weather on the panel! Except an AVQ 46 radar that was the early definition of myopia.
Robert Cowling -1
From the very beginning, that flight was wrong. That it ended as it did, is a tragedy. But how do you stop people from making really bad decisions. Should the departing airport denied their flight plan? Can they deny the pilot the ability to take off? Should tower personnel even be int he business of policing people making, or about to make, bad decisions?

I remember the story of a doctor that was leaving on holiday with his family. The airport was socked in. Only commercial flights were taking off, and some of them weren't leaving either. He had filed an IFR plan, and piled the family into his King Air, and sat at the end of the runway, got clearance to take off, and screamed down the runway, lifted off, and the wreckage was found in a field hundreds of yards off the end of the runway. All were killed. Weather played a role in the crash. Within 45 minutes, the fog had cleared. It was a beautiful day. Ironic, and so tragically avoidable.
Tom Bruce 1
South Lake Tahoe...winter storm coming in 30-40 knot winds... Guy with wife and 2 kids piled into their Cherokee.. called for taxi... "Cherokee 123 taxi to Rwy 18...wind 180 at 30 peak gust 45...caution turbulence and downdrafts over the last 1/3 of the runway." He taxied out and called for clearance... repeated warnings and cleared for takeoff... tried to turn midway down the runway... downdraft planted him in the meadow across the way... drove landing gear up through his wing... all safe thankfully.. had a crash every 2 weeks in the summer...all from pilots who "had to get there"
STLPilot2 0
From the get go there has been much talk of TAWS and potentially requiring a TAWS system for charter aircraft. TAWS wouldn't have saved this particular disaster as it would have done nothing to help this pilot from becoming disoriented when he attempted to climb out. It is my opinion that Synthetic Vision is the system that might have prevented this crash. This is the at the heart of the Catch 22 situation that the charter industry, both fixed and rotary wing face every day. To make charter more affordable older, less capable aircraft are contracted and purchased. All charter rates are not created equal nor is the quality and safety of that service. The average charter buyer is not knowledgeable enough to make an informed decision about which charter operator/aircraft to choose based on both price and safety. If Kobe Bryant had the benefit of all of the facts, including the potential avionics limitations of the helicopter that he chartered, I believe he would have chosen another aircraft and probably another charter operator.
ffrcobra1 7
All I can figure is that the people clamoring for TAWS after this accident have zero idea how the system works. They find out what the acronym stands for and they think “terrain avoidance.....yep, if they had avoided terrain the accident wouldn’t have happened, therefore this system is what is needed”. They don’t understand that the system tells the pilot to “pull up”, but that is of no help when the pilot doesn’t know which direction is up.
Highflyer1950 6
The trouble with making it that easy is that no one would learn how to fly IFR? Automation works until it doesn’t. A simpler cheaper way would be to have two experienced pilots in fly for hire ops. I have observed far too many VFR owner/pilots that rely on the autopilot all the time, even in IFR conditions. They say the aircraft doesn’t know it's IFR? Give them synthetic vision and they would all be right there with you at 1,000’ apart, until someone forgets to check for airframe icing etc. Most passengers want two things, the right pilot when everything goes to hell and one who places safety above everything.
Bret Ebaugh -3
He did not lose control as stated in this article . This is a perfect example of CFIT.
Highflyer1950 8
Bret, when you hit the ground at over 4000 feet per min you have lost control?
CFIT is - there is a difference btw
Highflyer1950 1
Are you saying AF 447 was CFIT?
I don't about an incident or investigation, it's just the definition. fire, wing off, out of fuel -yea that's not. over out


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