- Just before Kobe Bryant and eight others were killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the pilot was given special clearance to fly in foggy conditions.
- The New York Times reported on Monday that the investigation into the crash is likely to center on whether that was the right decision.
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The helicopter that crashed on Sunday in Calabasas, California, killing all nine people on board, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter, was given special permission to fly in foggy weather.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, and seven others were flying from Orange County to Thousand Oaks, where the basketball legend’s youth academy is.
But foggy conditions led them to circle over Burbank until air-traffic control gave them permission to carry on, according to audio communications posted on YouTube by the channel VASAviation.
The helicopter was given “special visual flight rules” clearance, which allows a flight to continue in worse weather conditions without relying solely on instrument-based navigation, according to CNN.
Under normal visual flight rules, or VFR, visibility is adequate for a pilot to stay oriented and navigate by visual cues, often used in conjunction with instruments. SVFR clearance can be requested when a pilot is not rated to fly solely by instrument – conditions known as instrument flight rules, or IFR – in an aircraft they’re piloting, particularly if conditions deteriorate during a flight that was previously under VFR. Under SVFR, a pilot typically remains in close contact with air-traffic controllers.
Later in the flight, the pilot asked for “flight following,” in which controllers would track the flight and be in regular contact, but was told they were flying too low for that, according to CNN.
The helicopter later crashed in Calabasas, killing everyone on board.
The New York Times reported on Monday that the investigation is likely to center on whether it was the correct decision to let the helicopter continue on its journey.
Los Angeles Police Department officials told The Times that even police helicopters generally didn’t fly in the conditions seen on Sunday morning.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
- Read more:
- Everything we know – and what we don’t – about the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and 7 others
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