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Helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, 8 others did not have terrain warning system: NTSB

The helicopter that crashed in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas on Sunday, killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, lacked a terrain awareness system that could have warned the pilot that he was approaching a hillside, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday, according to a report. ( Mehr...

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John Manley 17
Wouldnt have made a difference unless they were flying IFR. One of the most deadly things a pilot can do is attempt to fly VFR or SVFR and unexpectedly end up in the soup and become spatially disoriented which is what I think occurred. The pilot started climbing to avoid a cloud layer but consequently ended up in the soup, had to start relying on instruments and started making a climbing left turn. We all know the dangers of flying IFR when you arent IFR rated... its a death sentence unless you trust your instruments! Sadly, according to the ADS-B and radar data, when they started to make that turn to the left to turn back towards lower terrain, it was too late. The pilot succumbed to IMC disorientation and plowed right into the terrain. I'm not saying this is 100% what happened, but that is what it is sounding like occurred.

But regarding the GPWS/TAWS, the only thing I think the pilot could have benefited from its use is that it could have helped him realize his plan was not going to work and consequently possibly climbed to avoid it, end up in the soup, and then declare an emergency with SoCal TRACON to pick up pop-up IFR to CMA.

Other than that, it wouldn't have made much difference considering it is not to be used to maneuver in IMC.
bentwing60 6
"pick up pop-up IFR". Touche, and the first time I have read the term here. In my era, there was not quite the culpability to admitting to a mistake in the ATC world where a significant proportion of the controllers were pilots. PPL, ATP, same side!
Mark Paladino 2
The pilot was instrument rated and in fact was a CFII.
Jeannette Helms 7
The reason the pilot did not fly IFR is because that helicopter does not allow IFR for one pilot - only for 2 pilots. It may be because it's an older model of this helicopter and would be too much for one pilot to handle - but, it's blocked for 1 pilot to use. Also, this charter company does not allow its pilots to fly in this kind of weather/conditions and does not train its pilots to use IFR - since, with the usually nice S.C. weather, it would only be needed a few times a year and the expense would not be worth it - so, instead, the flights are just cancelled. Plus, in those conditions, the LAPD and sheriff's helicopters are grounded - as they aren't IFR trained - since, the reason they fly anyway is to find people etc. - and can't do that in the fog. Mostly just medical/emerg. helicopters are equipped to fly IFR- since it's a life and death situation. From what I've read from other pilots, you only fly in those conditions if your life depends on it - not just to get somewhere for an event....or, if you're on a military mission in a war zone etc.

I don't know why the charter company wasn't aware that this pilot requested special VFR flying to that event in those conditions - it's totally against their policy - and I'm sure they would have stopped him had they known - were paying attention. This crash will not doubt put them out of business permanently with the law suits that will be coming, I'm sure.
Daniel Gless 2
AeroMed medevac refuses to fly in bad weather. I do not know their exact actual criteria, I only listen to the scanner freqs here in the Grand Rapids Michigan area...but when its drizzling, foggy, low clouds they say NEGATIVE, not flying.
alex hidveghy 1
Yes. And they have already suspended operations as of yesterday.
Here’s more insight in to all this:
M20ExecDriver 5
Getthereitis resulting in CFIT.
Mike Ziemann 4
The media is suddenly infatuated with this TAWS story. Based on the reported attitude and descent rate of the helicopter, it sounds like a loss of control inflight. The obvious speculation being that that was a result of spatial disorientation due to the weather, but we'll leave it up to the NTSB to ultimately determine the cause. Regardless, TAWS is great for preventing CFIT, but is of little use in a LOC-I situation. Just another noise in the cockpit as the aircraft is plummeting towards the ground.
Walt Stoufer 12
Ridiculous! Terrain warning in the close confines of the 101 Freeway and known high terrain thru Calabasis will be of little help in IMC weather. In retrospect this should have been an IFR flight plan out of KSNA using the RNAV GPS Z approach into Camarillo Rwy 26 with a published minimum of 327 feet (250 feet AGL) feet and 1/4 mile visibility. The multi million dollar S-76 would likely have the avionics to fly this approach. I understand the pilot was rated for Certified flight instruction (Instrument). The pilot may have been pressured with "get their-itis" by Bryant and defaulted to special VFR under duress.
John Manley 5
not to nit pick but the minimums for the RNAV Z into CMA are actually 3/4SM not 1/4SM. IDK if that's what you meant and accidentally had a typo. Also, just curious, how do you know that rotorcraft was certified for LPV minimum approaches? Again, just curious.
ahmad samadzai 11
Terrain warning system or not the pilot was the cause of the crash. Period. 8 people trusted him to do the job and he failed. He was to fly VFR and got himself in IMC and I believe that he had no clue what was what around him in the clouds/fog. Even a simple VFR chart would have told him the terrain around him was much higher. This was such a tragic and avoidable event.
Viv Pike -5
Right .... you you are the NTSB and have fully investigated the crash. Great. The fact that the helo plunged to the ground at well over 4000 fpm is a clear indication of pilot error ....
ahmad samadzai 10
I am not the NTSB but I have a brain. Nobody in their right mind would have flown VFR in those conditions. Not even the LAPD. This guy could have safely gotten to his destination going IFR. Why he chose not to will never be known. Again, this was a completely avoidable event. 8 people trusted him to get them there and he failed.
Viv Pike 0
We still *do not know* the cause of the accident. It could have been medical, it could have been mechanical. We do not know. Whether the pilot was correct or not in his choice is, as of now, irrelevant until the actual cause is known. People are very quick to blame the pilot without knowing the facts. Yes, he might have flown VFR, but do you know for certain that he caused the accident? Do you think a pilot would not notice a 4000+ fpm decent? Just asking.
alex hidveghy 7
Might have flown VFR? He asked for and eventually got a Special VFR clearance! The LAPD AirSupport units were grounded because of the IFR conditions that morning. As a prudent measure. Fog takes a few hours to lift, not all day.
Both Kobe and this pilot would be mission-oriented and type A personalities. That much is known.
No, none of us are NTSB but you don’t have to be an expert in accident investigation to see where some of the facts are pointing to. This should have been an IFR filed flight, the pilot was instrument rated according to the reports (not sure if current which is another factor).
The PIC is responsible for the safety of the flight and it’s his decision to go or not go or divert or wait for the fog to clear. There are and were options, clearly.
As for the 4000+ descent, in the soup that reeks of disorientation. If it were purely VFR, yes, I would agree. Sad as this was, it’s not the first time a pilot has found himself in a situation which has ended in tragedy. Just stating. I’m a former pilot and have taken many courses in human factors, one of the required study areas for accident investigators.
ahmad samadzai 3
It could have would have....
Everything is possible but I along with many others(just look around and read other posts) think that it was the pilot who had the get thereitis and got himself into IMC and disoriented. That is most likely what happened and pretty much everyone knows it. I dont have prove of that because you know I am not the NTSB but when the dust settles that is exactly what will be proven. Good day.
Patrick McMahon 3
Common since. 3mi visibility at 160kts gives you about 60sec before you hit it. He could have slowed way down and give himself at least 4min. Or stop before the vis. dropped and get an IFR clearance and climb above minimums. There is a rule and if you violate it, the punishment could be death. FSAHF
Highflyer1950 2
Svfr limits are 1 sm vis and clear of cloud I was not there but I doubt they had even 1 mile flight vis, let alone 1 mile ground vis and at 160 kts which again I doubt was their airspeed, that would have provided :20 sec to see, recognize and take action. Still a good deal of time. Other posters advise correctly that an IFR flight plan would have been essential and a different outcome may have been probable.
Patrick McMahon -1
I check the speed, N72EX, was doing around that just before the crash. Well it looks like it wasn't. I was in the weather coming around to final and the "WOP WOP PULL UP TERRAIN TERRAIN" activated. The radar picked up the hill to the side as we entered the turn. It still scares you and you react differently. The jump was able to say start your climb twice be for the pilot flying reacted.
Highflyer1950 3
A little too early to be stating a conclusion as to the cause. I find it interesting that while scud running and possible loss of ground contact that the helo initiated a steep pull up to around 2300’ asl followed by a left, steep descending turn into the surrounding terrain! Medical event.....maybe? However, at that rate of descent TAWS may have offered little help?
darjr26 3
Seems like in those conditions it might have been helpful to have two pilots on board. One pilot heads up and one heads down as we used to say. A second pilot might also have asked “why are we doing this” and that might have been enough of a nudge to get the PIC to turn around. (I know it was for me one time.)
bbabis 5
My general feeling is that GPWS/TAWS in a helicopter would only be beneficial when a helicopter is flown on an IFR flight plan at IFR altitudes. Scud running in VFR/SVFR conditions would require it to be turned off or at least muted in order to avoid the distraction of constant warnings. I did read though that this pilot was using the ForeFlight program on an iPad. I would never bet my life on it, but if used correctly it could have been a big help in this instance. If using the GPS receiver within the iPad, forget it. It is nowhere near accurate or reliable enough for navigation. There are units though that are capable of working with ForeFlight and giving a WAAS/GPS position both laterally and vertically accurate to <1 meter. Combined with the route and terrain displays of ForeFlight, it could be lifesaving information. No idea how or if this pilot was using it.
Harry Hallstrom 2
It seems to me the fame of the client was a major cause of this accident,"gotta get my client" to his/her destination was the driving force behind that decision to fly in those conditions. Seems to me there are more than one person responsible for this accident that should never have happened if only some common sense rules of flight were followed. No matter how much hours in type rating you have that's no substitute for bad decision making. In the end it is a sad story of life lost.
Richard Darwicki 2
This will be an attorney feast for sure.
john doe 1
Well, true - but isn't everything?
Carlos Bea 2
I read that the operator of the helicopter was approved for 135 “VFR” only. :/
Dan Grelinger 2
A pilot who used to fly Kobe in that same helicopter has said that it was equipped with a terrain awareness system. I assume something like a GNS 430W or a GPS496, probably even better. Both can provide audio as well as visual alerts. The FAA said that they recovered the pilots iPad with ForeFlight installed. I use FlyQ EFB, a competing system, and it provides terrain awareness. I would assume that ForeFlight (the market leader) would have the same capability.

When the press suggests that it was wrong for the helicopter to be flying without TAWS and that TAWS would have prevented the accident, it is just another example of the press making judgements without knowledge. All for the purpose of creating apparent scandal, for clicks.
Mike Ziemann 3
Even better (sarcasm) than the press, I heard tonight that Barbara Boxer just introduced legislation mandating TAWS in certain aircraft. Great, another self-proclaimed aviation "expert" (aka politician) who knows absolutely ZERO about aviation is now jumping in the action to demand a "fix" to something that wouldn't have made a hill of beans difference in this horrible accident.
George Hall 1
Barbara Boxer plus her crony Nancy Pelosi(rips up Trump's speech. How childish is that) along with the media are one of the same; LIBERALS. They don't care if they don't know anything about flight. They just like POWER. Power over the people of this country and the media loves them because they make news. Boxer probably had to learn what TAWS means before her speech in congress.
Mark Storm 2
Proper flight planning starts the night before. On the day of, one should look at the weather at the planned destination, en route, and plan for all contingencies so one isn't tempted to take a chance. Anyone who has lived and flown in Southern California knows what a whimsical beast the marine layer and fog can be here.
WhiteKnight77 1
As someone who has done just that, in helicopters just miles from SNA (aircrew), there were times we didn't get to fly. We did a lot of flying in and around the Santa Ana mountains and unless it was clear, we didn't go.
vanbess 4
It was the pilots responsibility to plan the flight in a safe manner, he chose scud running and get there itis won. the device would not have helped.
patrick baker 2
at this level of customer profile, this helicopter was negligent in not having synthetic displays, radar altimeters, one or two axis stablization, and most important of all: a competent pilot . That plunge resulting in a crash was the classic symptom of vertigo and its inevitable result.
bentwing60 5
"That plunge resulting in a crash was the classic symptom of vertigo and its inevitable result". A quote!

And can occur to any 'class' of pilot at 'any' time.

"at this level of customer profile" this helicopter was certainly updated from it's original generation avionics, as the modern ATC, GPS, TAWS RNP snit requires in the area where it normally operated at the least! On a 135 certificate! It was originally certified with an autopilot that would take it to a 50' hover on an approved approach, if I am not mistaken.

Over the years, I have had several CEO's whom were private pilots and would regard the 'weather' like I would regard it. I flew freight before I flew them! And they knew it. Kobe shot three pointers. Indoors! The only No that counts is the one that keeps You from gettin killed.
Its time the FAA rethinks helicopter minimums. In my 24,000 of flying, the only real critical situations I have encountered were due to helicopters operating in low visibility near airports. All three times were during an my IFR departures and the helicopters VERY nearly colliding with my aircraft while operating VFR, low minimums and not talking to anyone. These helicopters should have the same minimums as fixed wing aircraft. PERIOD
bbabis 2
I'm sure that the helicopter industry would disagree with you Ron. Yes, there may be problems, but they are people problems and not regulatory problems. There are unsafe helicopter pilots that do not know or ignore the rules of safe operation just as there are fixed wing pilots that also need to up their game.
Carlos Bea 1
Van Nuys was reporting an 1,100 ft ceiling. Field elevation at Van Nuys is 802 so the clouds were around 2,000 MSL. Maybe, as the pilot followed the 101 westbound, toward rising terrain, the ground kept getting closer & closer. Maybe, due to his speed, he pulled up to avoid the terrain, not clouds below him. Up into IMC conditions. Just my 2 cents. :/
George Hall 1
I see a possible shutdown coming for the chopper charter service including upcoming lawsuits, Island Express by FAA. They were not certified to fly in inclement weather, so they did not have NTSB in those choppers. I know some pilots say that NTSB is not totally reliable but the pilot's natural reaction would be to pull up. But it is a shame because when they left John Wayne, the weather was fine. 4 mile visibility. That cloud bank came out of nowhere. Wow, kind of freaky. Like "some other force" at play here.
alex hidveghy 2
You are basically correct. However, it’s unfortunate that you’ve mad3 a few mistakes. You were clearly referring to a piece of equipment called TAWS (Terrain Awareness Warning System), not the accident investigating agency, the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board.
And one thing every pilot knows, or should know, is that weather has a habit of changing rapidly sometimes. That’s why attention should be paid to both en route as well as destination weather to determine go or no-go. The fact that weather was fine at SNA is irrelevant to the latter part if the flight. The only “force” at play was bad decision-making. As I mentioned before in another post of mine, people should study human factors in aviation. Google it even. It is a mandatory subject in professional academic pilot studies as well as in recurrent training. Just like CRM is.
Ken Thompson 2
George, NTSB is not an acronym for a terrain avoidance instrument. It’s a governing agency. Me thinks you are not a pilot and all this is beyond your comprehension, so why comment?
M20ExecDriver 1
Considering the common weather conditions in this area, my money's on him getting away with this
M20ExecDriver 1
numerous times before and finally getting caught. His luck ran out.
cowboybob 1
echoing others...this is a solution looking for a problem. Terrain warning would have done nothing in this's only useful as a "Warning", not as a last ditch attempt to escape terrain when hopelessly trapped...which it appears this flight was in the area they were in (big mountains--too low). Why this guy didn't just bite the bullet and try to set it done Anywhere in a hover is hard to fathom. We'll never know. My wag is that the old "pressure to go with the celebs on board" was just too great.
bbabis 1
Its a very common misconception, that I also once believed, that helicopters can just stop and hover to the ground anytime they want. In getting my commercial rotorcraft add-on I learned the truth. You need excellent visual cues to hover a helicopter, something this pilot ran out of. He did pass up many opportunities to land but once in that pass and zero zero , flying it out or crashing were the only options. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to fly it out.
WhiteKnight77 1
A radar altimeter might have helped, but at the rate of descent, he still would have most likely impacted the ground. Set the pipper at 1000' and then do not disobey the alarm.
michael reeser 1
This isn't a fixed wing aircraft he could have put it down in a parking lot and waited it out.
bentwing60 3
Why not BUR or VNY? He practically flew right over one and just north of the other and had to know he was flying 'toward' the marine layer.

Mission focus is a thing in the business and the shorter the trip or proximity to the destination, the harder it is to switch gears to an alternate. This guy was a pro, SOCAL vet and the Chief Pilot, who knows how many times he pulled it off?
Daniel Gless 1
The last time he didn't. "Pulling it off' one too many times lead to this crash IMHO. Complacency brings about dangerous traps that catch you unawares...fatally.
bentwing60 1
Oh duhhh, read the last line! He was the "Chief Pilot" and he met the standard that he set.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

airlinerjake1011 4
yards from A hill, not the one it crashed into
alex hidveghy 2
It crashed in to the hill some 20-30 feet from the top of the ridge.
WhiteKnight77 2
With even higher ones not far away.


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