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10th Feb 2021

Kobe Bryant pilot flew into clouds despite being “prohibited” to do so, says investigation

Bryant passed away early last year.

The pilot of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter flew into clouds despite being “prohibited” to do so, an investigation has shown.

Ara Zobayan, who was killed in the 2020 crash that also took the lives of sports star Bryant and his daughter Brianna, was flying “under visual flight orders which legally prohibited him from penetrating the clouds.”

An investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash has found that Zobayan was “likely disorientated” when he flew into the clouds near Los Angeles on January 26 last year.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that despite Zobayan’s flying expertise, his decision to fly into the thick clouds reduced his visibility ahead of the fatal crash.


A recent hearing found that Zobayan ignored his training and entered into a spot of fog, a situation where “a certain percentage aren’t going to come out alive.”

Before the crash, the pilot told flight controllers on the ground that he had almost broken through the clouds when the helicopter had, in fact, already started to descend.

The crash occurred in the Calabasas hills, instantly killing all nine passenger on board. This included Bryant, 13 year old Gianna, pilot Zobayan, and six other passengers.

Investigators said the “phenomenon of spatial disorientation, which is the powerful sensation that confuses pilots who lose visual reference and what types of training can be effective in countering this effect,” will be further considered.

According to the board, there were 184 crashes between 2010 and 2019 involving spatial disorientation. 20 of these included fatalities.