The pilot of the helicopter that crashed in thick fog, killing Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers, reported the aircraft was ascending when it actually was heading for the ground, federal investigators said in documents released Wednesday.
Ara Zobayan radioed to air traffic controllers that he was climbing to 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) to get above clouds on Jan. 26 when, in fact, the chopper was plunging toward a hillside where it crashed northwest of Los Angeles, killing all nine people aboard.
The report by the National Transportation Safety Board said Zobayan may have “misperceived” the angles at which he was descending and banking, which can happen when a pilot becomes disoriented in low visibility.
One report stated quote - “Calculated apparent angles at this time show that the pilot could have misperceived both pitch and roll angles. During the final descent the pilot, responding to (air traffic control), stated that they were ‘climbing to four thousand."
Cox said quoted - “He is not the first person to experience it. It’s a significant cause of accidents.”
The 1,700 pages of reports do not offer a conclusion of what caused the crash but compile factual reports. A final report on the cause is due later.
The NTSB said there was no sign of engine failure in the Sikorsky S-76 and the rotor was spinning just before it hit the ground at about 184 mph (296 kph). The impact caused a crater and scattered debris over an area the size of a football field in the Calabasas hills. Flames engulfed the wreckage.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six of their friends were killed, along with Zobayan.