NTSB Virtual Hearing Scheduled for Kobe Bryant Crash

Updated February 10, 2021

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) held a virtual hearing on February 9, 2021, regarding the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant’s daughter Gianna, and seven others in January 2020. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter struck a fog-covered hillside in Calabasas, California, leading to the deaths of everyone on board. The group was traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks at the time of the crash.

The night before the crash, the broker who arranged the flight expressed concern about the predicted weather patterns for the day of flight. The broker eventually stated that the weather would be okay, according to the NTSB and those who arranged the flight.

What is the Predicted Cause of the Crash?

The predicted cause of the crash is the disorientation of the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan. He told air traffic control that his chopper was climbing out of heavy clouds when it was actually turning and plunging into a hillside. When a pilot misperceives a turn, that is known as a vestibular illusion also called “the leans.” This illusion can cause spatial disorientation and can make pilots think that they are straight and level when they are actually turning. Without outside references or attention to altitude, the pitch and bank angles can be misperceived.  This helicopter was not required to have safety equipment to alert and warn the pilot that he was too close to the ground.  John Gagliano discussed these issues on Fox29 Philadelphia the morning after the NTSB hearing. 

What can the Hearing Determine?

The NTSB hearing will determine the NTSB’s opinion about the probable cause of the crash and make recommendations to improve aviation safety going forward for these types of helicopters.  It is important to note that the NTSB’s opinion in its Probable Cause Determination absolutely cannot be used in civil litigation arising from the crash per federal law.

Facts About Passenger Helicopter Safety Equipment

The lead NTSB investigator stated that the helicopter did not have a Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS). This system could have helped inform the pilot that he was too close to the ground. Unfortunately, this system was not required on the chopper under Federal Aviation Administration regulations.  California lawmakers have introduced a bill in Congress to require the FAA to add this important safety equipment to passenger helicopters.

Do I Need an Aviation Lawyer?

Consulting with an aviation lawyer is a vital step after a traumatic event involving an aircraft. Aviation litigation is one of the most highly regulated and specialized industries in the country. Aviation lawsuits are extremely complicated and require the guidance of a skilled lawyer. Aviation claims include cases against well-known names in aviation, including billion-dollar corporations and the United States Government. John Gagliano of Gagliano Law Offices has been involved with airline, private, executive, and military aircraft litigation. He has also been closely monitoring this case and has analyzed the flight path of Bryant’s helicopter.

Shortly after the tragic crash John gave an in-depth interview with Philadelphia NBC10 to discuss the helicopter’s flight path and air control communications. In addition to being an aviation lawyer, John is a former U.S. Navy pilot and has over 20 years of aviation and legal experience. The Kobe Bryant helicopter crash hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EST in Washington, D.C. and will be available to watch online.

The Team at Gagliano Law Offices Advocates on Behalf of Victims of Aviation Accidents

If you were involved in an aviation accident, contact Gagliano Law Offices for help with your case. Aviation accidents are terrifying events. We will review your case and hold the negligent party responsible. Call 215-554-6170 or email  us for a free consultation today.  We are located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but our aviation specialization has nation-wide reach and we serve clients across the country.