A month after Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others perished in a helicopter crash, more details are surfacing about the pilot involved.
The Los Angeles Times reports that pilot Ara Zobayan violated federal flight rules by flying into Los Angeles International Airport airspace against the orders of air traffic control in 2015.
According to the FAA, Zobayan was denied clearance to fly an AS350 under visual flight rules, due to reduced visibility and weather conditions. When air traffic control told him to stay clear of the area, he replied that he could “maintain VRF” and entered the airspace.
The 2015 report stated, “Had Mr. Zobayan properly planned and reviewed current weather at LAX, he would have been able to anticipate the required action to transit... resulting in proper coordination. There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan."
Following the incident, Zobayan was counseled by an FAA investigator and “admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance,” the report noted.
Fellow pilot Shawn Coyle argued that the violation was minor, saying, “I don’t know a single pilot out there who hasn’t violated a rule. If that’s the only violation he’s ever had, then I would say he’s pretty safe.”
Bryant’s former pilot Kurt Deetz had a different take, saying that particular violation could be dangerous. He said, “You can’t request special VFR and then they deny you and you say, ‘Oh, wait a minute, actually I’m VFR.' That’s not how it works. It shows that perhaps his understanding of special VFR, as opposed to VFR, was cloudy.”
While the NTSB has released a preliminary report, an extensive report revealing the cause of accident will be released within 12-18 months.