A small over a year after a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter crashed in Calabasas, California on Jan. 26, 2020, killing nine world including Kobe Bryant, the national Transportation security Board (NTSB) identified that the probable reason of the accident to be “the pilot’s decision to continue flight under visual flight rules right into instrument meteorological conditions , which brought about the pilot’s spatial disorientation and loss that control.”


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A west-facing Bloomsky network camera picture from approximately the accident time. While the FAA is gradually expanding its official weather camera roll-out, many unofficial weather cams are already online and can carry out pilots with added information to take into consideration during flight planning. NTSB Image

The NTSB investigators located local cameras which showed low clouds through some fog or fog in the area. The pictures gathered came from the ALERTWildfire network, i beg your pardon had numerous cameras in the area; the Bloomsky Weather Network; and the City the Calabasas Weather Cam. All of these can be accessed digital in actual time.

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Flying at 450 feet AGL and now entering the clouds, Zobayan radioed air traffic control (ATC) come tell castle he to be initiating a climb to get above the clouds. He to be climbing in ~ a rate of 1,500 feet per minute, which expected he would be over the clouds in just a minute or so. Perhaps he believed that in together a short duration of time, spatial disorientation would not be a problem.

The helicopter reached 2,370 feet MSL (1,600 feet AGL) and also was more than likely within a hundreds feet of breaking v the optimal of the cloud layer when it began to descend rapidly. Once ATC wondered about Zobayan, his solution was that he to be climbing come 4,000 feet MSL (about 3,200 feet AGL) come get over the clouds (and the mountaintops). The NTSB concluded the a somatogravic illusion because of spatial disorientation make him think he was ascending when in reality he was spiraling promptly downward. In ~ seconds, the aircraft crashed right into the side of a surrounding mountain. All of the over transpired in simply two minutes.

The accident is a reminder the a pilot cannot extrapolate problems near sea level as existing in mountainous terrain. VMC at low levels can easily turn right into IMC as the terrain rises — v deadly consequences.

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Sourcing note: lot of the meteorological details referred to came from the NTSB docket because that accident DCA20MA059.