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Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter which crashed killing Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, and seven other people had probably become disorientated amid fog, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators have said.

The helicopter smashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California, on January 26, 2020.

Ara Zobayan was among the dead.

Investigators also said the pilot may have felt “self-induced pressure” to complete the flight for Kobe Bryant.

The NTSB has been investigating the circumstances around the crash, and met on February 9 to vote on the probable cause. It is an independent federal agency with no enforcement powers.

In its official finding, the NTSB said the main cause of the crash was most likely the pilot’s decision to keep flying in inclement conditions, “which resulted in the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss of control”.

During the flight, Ara Zobayan told air traffic controllers the helicopter was climbing out of heavy cloud when it was actually descending.

“This maneuver is consistent with the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation in limited visibility conditions,” said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt.

“We are talking about spatial disorientation where literally the pilot may not know which way is up or down, whether he or she is leaning left or right.”

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The NTSB added that “inadequate review and oversight” of safety management processes by the helicopter charter company, Island Express, may have also contributed to the crash.

However, the board did not find that the Sikorsky S-76B had experienced any mechanical problems. The helicopter was not required to have “black box” recorders, which capture flight data and voices in the cockpit, and was not carrying any.

Ara Zobayan violated federal rules and went against his own flight training by flying into thick clouds, safety officials said.

The pilot “was flying under visual flight orders or VFR which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds”, but he did so anyway, said Robert Sumwalt.

Investigators also criticized the pilot for banking the helicopter to the left, instead of bringing the aircraft straight up while trying to escape the bad weather.

Ara Zobayan was an experienced pilot who had often flown for Kobe Bryant. The widely respected pilot had logged more than 1,200 hours in the Sikorsky-76 helicopter.

Disorientation can set in when pilots can’t see the sky or landscape, making it harder to judge an aircraft’s altitude and acceleration.

Investigators also said that the close relationship between Kobe Bryant and Ara Zobayan may have compelled the pilot to fly even in unsafe conditions.

In text messages on the eve of the crash released by the NTSB, Ara Zobayan wrote that the forecast seemed to be “not the best”. The next morning, the pilot wrote that the conditions were “looking ok”.

At the time of the crash, retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, was travelling to a youth basketball tournament with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two of her teammates, and several other friends.

The fatal crash prompted a global outpouring of support for Kobe Bryant’s family – as well as a number of lawsuits.

Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, sued Ara Zobayan and the companies that owned and operated the helicopter for alleged negligence and wrongful death. Families of the other victims sued the helicopter companies – but not the pilot.

In September, Vanessa Bryant sued the LA County Sheriff’s Department after officers shared unauthorized photos of the crash site. California now has a state law prohibiting first responders from taking unauthorized pictures of people who died at the scene of an accident or crime.


Asiana Airlines said the two dead in San Francisco Boeing 777 crash landing were Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16 years old from Jiangshan in eastern China.

They were both headed for a summer camp in the U.S. – part of a group of 70 Chinese students and teachers aboard the Boeing 777 that crash-landed.

Asiana Airlines said the two dead in San Francisco Boeing 777 crash landing were Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia from eastern China

Asiana Airlines said the two dead in San Francisco Boeing 777 crash landing were Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia from eastern China

A total of 141 Chinese nationals were aboard the flight that was bound for San Francisco from Seoul, South Korea.

Wang Linjia’s parents were both on the fight, as well, and could be seen sobbing as they learned their daughter died in the crash.

The black box aboard the Boeing 777 jetliner set out three crucial moments – beginning 7 seconds before impact – that show the plane was approaching the runway too slowly and that the pilots were trying to correct the problem.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said today that the jetliner, which was carrying 291 passengers, was flying “significantly” slower than the 137 knots that is ideal for jetliners preparing to land in San Francisco.

NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said an initial examination of the plane’s in-flight data recorders show no indication that the plane was in trouble until 7 seconds before impact.

It was at that point that the pilots tried to increase the speed of the plane.

“We have to take another look at the raw data and corroborate it with radar and air traffic information to make sure we have a very precise speed,” Deborah Hersman said.

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A US Airways flight operated by Piedmont Airlines with 34 people aboard made a belly landing at Newark International Airport last night after its landing gear failed to lower.

Terrified passengers managed to escape the plane unharmed after the plane’s pilot – named by witnesses as Edward Powers – performed a heroic emergency landing.

Video footage of the turboprop twin-engine plane coming down on the runway showed a dramatic shower of sparks flying from its underbelly as it scraped across the tarmac, however, miraculously no fire was started.

Emergency workers on the ground doused the plane in foam as a precaution but it became clear that the actions of the quick-thinking pilot had saved US Airways Express Flight 4560.

Problems emerged as the Dash 8-100 plane operated by Piedmont Airlines, which was carrying 31 passengers and three crew members, came in to Newark around 1 a.m. having left Philadelphia two hours earlier.

Pilot Edward Powers was unable to fully lower the plane’s landing gear.

US Airways pilot makes belly landing at Newark airport as 34 terrified passengers escape alive after gear failed

US Airways pilot makes belly landing at Newark airport as 34 terrified passengers escape alive after gear failed

Circling in the air several times the pilot repeatedly tried to lower the gear but to no avail.

The pilot then realized it would be necessary to raise the gear completely and make a belly landing which would give the plane a good chance to come down safely and lower its chances of veering off the runway.

He then continued to circle – dumping fuel to lower the risk of a fire.

On their safe arrival the passengers were evacuated to the terminal by bus.

The relieved pilot and his two crew members posed for a picture alongside the foam covered aircraft.

A spokesman for US Airways said they are cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board which is investigating the incident.

He also paid tribute to the work of Edward Powers.

There has been no reported disruption at the airport although one runway remains closed as investigations continue.

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