The helicopter in which Kobe Bryant and eight others died when it crashed in California’s Los Angeles County on January 26 was operating under “special visual flight rules,” according to air traffic control audio, captured by LiveATC.net.
Special visual flight rules allow pilots to fly in weather worse than the normal conditions – in this case dense fog – that comprise standard visual flight rules.
The audio reveals that, in the minutes before the crash at 9.45 am PST, an air traffic controller told the pilot that he was “still too low level for flight following.” As the helicopter moved southwest, the pilot’s audio was no longer captured, likely due to low altitude and worsening conditions. Soon after, radar contact with the helicopter was lost.
The audio includes conversation between numerous control tower operators and the pilot of the helicopter, Ara Zobayan. Additional clips from the audio highlight how the pilot was receiving assistance from controllers to navigate the dense fog in the Burbank and Van Nuys area to the northwest of Los Angeles.
This video was published by VASAviation, a YouTube channel, which compiled the audio from multiple air traffic control towers, edited it together, and lined it up with flight data showing the path of the helicopter. Credit: VASAviation/LiveATC.net via Storyful