Investigators are looking into the cause and reasons for the crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others including his daughter Gianna Bryant on January 26. The investigation of the scene is being led by the National Transportation Safety Board, who are trying to make sense of what would have happened by linking the weather, the pilot and other conditions during the crash.
Possible audio of the Sikorsky flight with air traffic control was obtained by several of the media that revealed the conversation between the pilot and the controllers. According to Flightradar24, the flight is said to have taken off from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County at 9:06 am local time.
The flight was operating under 'special VFR' status
The pilot was granted permission to fly the copter when the weather was noted to be quite tough. The helicopter is said to have been flying low because of this. The flight was headed to Mamba Sports Academy in Newbury Park. The helicopter, Sikorsky S-76B, was operating under special visual flight rule. This meant that the pilot was granted permission to fly in challenging conditions. These requests are not uncommon.
The pictures from the crash site showed that the impact was directed towards a steep side of the mountain. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA's Pacific division said that the pilot has the complete control to determine whether it is safe to fly or not.
Ara Zobayan is said to have been a good instructor and a licensed commercial pilot for more than a decade. He was also certified to fly under instrument flight rules. One of Zobayan's student, Darren Kemp, told the LA Times that the pilot was close to Bryant and that he wouldn't let anyone else fly him to places.
Audio revealed that the flight would climb, but lost connection soon after
As per the audio obtained the pilot was following the instructions from the air control office and was seen waiting for another flight to land in the nearby airport before continuing their journey north to the academy. After receiving information to go in which direction, the helicopter can be seen moving towards the south and losing the connection with the air traffic controllers.
On Sunday, an aviation weather advisory had said that the weather wouldn't be appropriate to fly that day. The investigators are dealing with rugged and harsh terrain. The firefighters had to climb a steep side to get to the crash site. NTSB member Jennifer Homendy mentioned that there wasn't a black box and there was no requirement of keeping a black box in such flights.
Maintenance records of the flight will be made available to the authorities to check if it had any issues. It was previously owned by the state of Illinois and was auctioned off in 2015.