Kobe Bryant helicopter pilot warned ‘you’re too low’ moments before crash that killed nine – The Sun
THE pilot of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers on Sunday was warned he was "too low" moments before the aircraft crashed on Sunday morning.
Audio between the pilot and air traffic control obtained by The Sun reveal that air traffic controllers were attempting to guide the helicopter, but lost contact moments before its fatal fall.
The Los Angeles Lakers great was travelling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna; college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; and one of the coaches at Kobe's youth academy, Christina Mauser.
Reports have yet to identify the other two passengers, while friends and former students have identified the pilot as Ara Zobayan.
Conditions on Sunday were a problem according to multiple reports, with limited visibility due to heavy fog in southern California, and the pilot ios heard talking with air traffic controllers about this in the audio.
"You're too low,"the pilot is told just before the crash.
That does not mean the helicopter was actually too low, in fact it was ascending at the time of this warning.
'Too low' instead means that the controller is no longer able to provide an aircraft with guidance because it cannot get a good enough read of the radar.
Phillipe Lesourd, an experienced helicopter pilot who regularly flies in the area, spoke to The Sun after listening to the audio.
"When you ask for a special VFR (visual flight rules), which they did, only one aircraft is allowed in the airspace,' explained Phillipe.
He went on to point out that the dismal conditions, caused by a heavy blanket of fog, had caused problems for other aircraft.
The Los Angeles Police Department also commented on this Sunday afternoon, revealing that the force had grounded all of its aircraft due to the poor visibility.
"You can hear the controller saying that it had an 'ad go around,'that means an aircraft already cancelled its landing because of low visibility," said Phillipe.
"That is not a good sign."
The 911 call reveals that the individual who called in the crash commented that they could not see the plane, but they could feel it.
Kobe's helicopter took off from Long Beach at 8:29 a.m PST on Sunday, then touched down again just eight minutes later in Orange County.
It is believed the stop was to pick up Bryant and the other passengers.
The helicopter then took off again 30 minutes later at 9:06 a.m. PST but never reached its final destination.
It was just 20 minutes into the flight when the plane began to circle in Burbank while speaking with flight control.
The pilot was then told to try and follow the freeways to the aircraft's final destination of Camarillo.
This plan initially proved to be successful, with the helicopter making it north and then turning west towards Camarillo when it suddenly began to encounter problem in Calabasas.
Records show that at this point, the helicopter, which had stayed below 1000 feet for most of the trip, began to ascend as it approached the Santa Monica Mountains.
The plane was at 1750 feet and travelling at a speed of 161 knots when it crashed at around 9:47 am PST, killing all on board.
An investigation is currently underway and is being spearheaded by the LA County Sheriff's Office and the National Safety and Transportation Board.
Press conferences were given at 2 pm PST and later 8 pm PST with updates, but officials were able to provide little information pending further investigation.
It was noted however that the terrain in the area of the crash is so treacherous that it will take officials a week before recovery efforts are complete.
Kobe had chartered a helicopter to take him and daughter GiGi to a travel basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.
The NBA great had been at the same tournament one day prior, where he was photographed by a number of other parents who marvelled at the fact that the 18-time All Star was coaching his daughter's team.
It was an emotional scene at the facility on Sunday when word came down that Kobe and eight others had lost their lives.
"Closed" signs were placed on the doors and flowers lined the outside of the buildings.
Back in Los Angeles, thousands of fans flocked to the Staples Center to pay tribute to Kobe on the same night as the Grammy Awards.
Buildings across Los Angeles light up in the yellow and purple, including City Hall, with Mayor Eric Garcetti writing: "Lights for a legend."
Kobe was also remembered by three US presidents on Sunday – Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
"Reports are that basketball great Kobe Bryant and three others have been killed in a helicopter crash in California. That is terrible news!" wrote Donald on Sunday afternoon, before the number of crash victims had been revealed by authorities.
Barack posted a short time later, writing: "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76B built in 1991
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