Kobe Bryant


LOS ANGELES – Although Ara Zobayan – the pilot flying the helicopter that tragically crashed last Sunday – was certified to fly by instrument with low to no visibility, the helicopter charter company Island Express Helicopters was not, sources close to the investigation told NBC News. The helicopter flew while LAPD helicopters were all grounded, due the thick fog in LA on Sunday morning. The helicopter crash killed 9 people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the pilot, and 6 others.

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New questions are rising about Island Express Helicopters. Video: NBC News

All operations suspended

According to the Los Angeles Times, Island Express Helicopters has suspended operations indefinitely, the helicopter charter company said in a statement on Thursday.

Bad weather conditions

Although LA is known worldwide for its clear sky, the city also has many cloudy and foggy mornings every year, but luckily the hot sun usually dissolves those thick clouds or fog fairly quickly. However, those thick clouds or fog can last longer in the hills and mountains around the city of Los Angeles. That is why questions continue to arise as to why this helicopter flew earlier this week on that tragic Sunday, in those extreme circumstances.

Pilot Ara Zobayan was a dedicated and very experienced helicopter pilot with more than 8,200 flight hours.

Questions remain unanswered

Questions keep on rising during this tragic week – why was the helicopter flying in that area of LA in those extreme conditions with low to no visibility in a terrain with many hills and mountains? Was the pilot operating the aircraft under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) or IFR (Instrument Flight Rules)?

The helicopter also did not have a black box on board, according to officials from the NTSB. A black box – which is a recording device – was not required for the aircraft.

The helicopter circled for 12 minutes, while the pilot was waiting for clearance from ATC, NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy announced on Monday. The helicopter then climbed to around 2,300 feet to avoid a cloud layer and soon started a descending left turn.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation by the FAA and NTSB. Hopefully all these questions will be answered soon, so lessons can be learned to prevent such unnecessary accidents to ever happen again.

Los Angeles pays tribute to their legend

While questions keep on rising, the LA Lakers and the NBA, friends and fans, payed a beautiful and emotional tribute last night to Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna, and the other victims of the crash:

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Los Angeles pays tribute to one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Video: NBA


(Head image: a shot from Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short film – “Dear Basketball,” animated and directed by Glen Keane © Granity Studios)

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