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#pounditMonday, January 24, 2022

Articles tagged: Ara Zobayan

NTSB report shows pilot Ara Zobayan became disoriented in fog before crash

Ara Zobayan

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday made public its docket containing facts related to the January 26 helicopter crash that killed nine people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

One of the main takeaways from the report is that pilot Ara Zobayan became disoriented in the fog prior to the fatal crash. Zobayan believed he was ascending through the fog when in fact he was going downwards. He communicated via radio that he was climbing to an altitude of 4,000 feet to get above the clouds when he was actually descending towards a hillside where the helicopter crashed.

The path of the flight indicated Zobayan became disoriented.

Zobayan was the lead pilot for Island Express and had flown Bryant and other celebrities multiple times. He had flown the same group of people to the same destination — the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif. — the day before.

Island Express reported 150 flight cancellations due to weather in 2019. They reported 13 cancellations due to weather in 2020, all of which occurred in the two days before the crash.

Zobayan was described as being diligent about checking the weather and said it was “OK” prior to flying on January 26.

The NTSB docket was created on June 16 and made public on June 17. You can find the entire file here.

In addition to the Bryants and Zobayan, the other people who died in the crash were John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, and Christina Mauser.

Rep for pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter says passengers responsible for deaths

Kobe Bryant

An investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others back in January remains open, but there has been plenty of finger-pointing in the wake of the tragedy. The latest comes from the pilot’s side.

Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company in February. The lawsuit alleges that the pilot, Ara Zobayan, did not have proper clearance to fly in the conditions that were present the day the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., on Jan. 26. According to new court documents obtained by TMZ, a relative of Zobayan has answered the lawsuit and placed blame on the passengers for their deaths.

The response states that “any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility.”

That likely means Zobayan’s representatives are claiming Bryant and the others on board were aware of the risks that the weather conditions presented. It remains to be seen if assuming that risk places some of the blame on their side. Zobayan was among the nine people who died in the crash.

Unfortunately, these types of legal battles were expected. Vanessa Bryant also filed a recent legal claim over some photos that were taken at the crash site. There will be a lot of court activity related to the crash for years to come.

Kawhi Leonard flew with Kobe’s pilot Ara Zobayan, unsure if he will use helicopter again

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard spoke publicly about Kobe Bryant’s death for the first time on Wednesday, and the Los Angeles Clippers star said he is unsure if the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Kobe’s daughter and seven others will discourage him from using that method of transportation in the future.

Leonard said that Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed, had flown him to and from many games in the past. He said there were times when Zobayan would pick him up after having just taken Kobe somewhere, and Leonard described Zobayan as a “good dude.” When asked if the crash will give him pause about traveling via helicopter in the future, Leonard said he is not sure.

Zobayan was, by all indications, a very trusted pilot. He was Bryant’s preferred pilot, so Kobe must have had good reasons for that. Unfortunately, freak accidents happen.

Sunday’s crash is still under investigation, but some audio that was released from the minutes before it happened indicated Zobayan was trying to navigate through bad weather. It appears that was a factor.

Ara Zobayan identified as pilot in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

While Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna have understandably led the headlines from Sunday’s devastating helicopter crash, it is important to keep in mind that seven other people also lost their lives in the tragedy. Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the aircraft, was among them.

Zobayan has been identified as the man who was flying the helicopter at the time it crashed in hilly terrain in Calabasas. In addition to being a pilot, Zobayan was also a flight instructor. Upon learning of his death, many friends and former students of Zobayan’s took to social media to share positive memories of the 50-year-old. Darren Kemp, one of Zobayan’s former students, told the Los Angeles Times that Bryant considered Zobayan his most trusted pilot.

“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” Kemp said.

Kemp said Zobayan had an impact on in his personal life as well as with his flying, as Zobayan also helped Kemp through his divorce and convinced him not to give up on flight school.

Sunday’s crash is still under investigation, but it has been confirmed that Zobayan was flying under special VFR, or special visual flight rules. Those rules allow helicopters to fly in conditions where visibility is an issue, which appears to have been the case with the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas. KTLA’s Christina Pascucci, who is also a licensed pilot, says public records show Zobayan was rated to fly in those types of conditions.

Zobayan also appeared on an episode of “Celebrity Wife Swap” back in 2013. Fellow pilot Lorenzo Lamas teased the episode on Facebook at the time by telling people to “Tune in to ABC this Sunday 8pm to see Ara and me fly Andy Dick’s baby momma around on ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ lol.” Lamas was friends with Zobayan, and Lamas was included in a photo that accompanied a Facebook tribute written by Jared Joachim, another pilot and friend of Zobayan’s.

“Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are,” Joachim wrote. “Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh.”

Bryant traveled by helicopter frequently, and the explanation he gave for doing so is now gut-wrenching. If Zobayan was the pilot Kobe trusted to fly him and his loved ones around, you can bet there was a good reason for it.

More Larry Brown Sports coverage of Kobe Bryant’s death:

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Other victims of the helicopter crash:
John Altobelli, junior college baseball coach, also died in helicopter crash
Christina Mauser, girls’ basketball coach, among the helicopter crash victims

Tributes to Kobe:
Dallas Mavericks retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey
Video: Raptors, Spurs start game with amazing tribute to Kobe Bryant
Shaq posts heartfelt tribute to Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan releases statement on death of ‘little brother’ Kobe Bryant
Video: Doc Rivers breaks down crying talking about Kobe Bryant
Phil Jackson calls Kobe Bryant ‘a chosen one’ in statement on his death
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issues statement on death of Kobe Bryant
Video: Dwyane Wade posts emotional message reacting to Kobe Bryant’s death
Kendrick Perkins extends olive branch to Kevin Durant after Kobe Bryant’s death
Video: Emotional Mike Breen sums up NBA world’s emotions about Kobe Bryant’s death
Trae Young’s huge game was full of Kobe Bryant-related statistical coincidences

More coverage:
Media errors, rumors, poor judgment run rampant in reporting of Kobe Bryant news
Kobe Bryant checked in on Shaq’s son Shareef morning of helicopter crash
No, Rick Fox did not die in helicopter crash that killed Kobe, Gianna Bryant
Lakers fans start memorial to Kobe Bryant outside Staples Center
Kobe Bryant’s last tweet was congratulating LeBron James on passing him
Sports world stunned over Kobe Bryant news
Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash – dead at 41

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