The company of the helicopter that crashed and killed basketball star Kobe Bryant and eight others did not have a certification to allow its pilots to fly in poor visibility, reports said.
Island Express Helicopters, which owned the Sikorsky S-76B was only certified to operate under visual flight rules or VFR, Kurt Deetz, the company’s pilot and former safety manager told New York Times. VFR includes at least three miles of visibility and a cloud ceiling no lower than 1,000 feet above the ground.
Deetz added that the company didn’t have certification for its pilots to fly using instruments.
However, the aircraft is equipped for instrument flight and the pilot Ara Zobayan, was licensed for instrument flying. But due to the company’s limitation on certification, he was forced to fly only in conditions of sufficient visibility to navigate visually.
In fact, air traffic controllers had given Zobayan “special visual flight rules,” or clearance to fly in the bad weather around the Burbank airport.
The twin-engine helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California, amid fogs and visibility-limiting clouds on Sunday. Island Express Helicopters has suspended its operation on Thursday evening.
Bryant’s death shocked the whole sports and entertainment worlds. He was an 18-time NBA all-star and one of the most admired athletes around the world. In 2018, he won an Oscar for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” a love letter to the sport which made him more famous.
Several fans around the world are still mourning over his death. Meanwhile, NBA continues to honor Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and all the families of all the victims.
Rest in peace, Kobe Bryant. The whole world loves you!