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  #1  
Old 01-27-2020, 11:28 PM
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Kobe Bryant flight path

I have read a few articles on this horrific tragedy, and I was just wondering if there was any possibility that they could have taken a different flight path? As in going straight west from where they started, then heading up the coast, going slightly west of the hills/mountains where the crash site was, and then slightly east to the final destination of Thousand Oaks.

The visbility was poor, there was fog, and the cloud ceiling was low. Perhaps going up the coast just following the coastline could have been an alternative?

I realize this would have likely been a longer trip, but perhaps it would have been safer.

But, perhaps they still would have had to cross hazardous terrain going east to Thousand Oaks from the coast at the end of the journey if they had taken a coastal route. This might have been a treacherous journey given the poor weather conditions regardless of the route they took.

This is probably just Monday morning quarterbacking. Hindsight is 20/20.



Last edited by ud2; 01-27-2020 at 11:40 PM..
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Old 01-28-2020, 12:58 AM
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I too have read up on the actual flight information as a vehicle crash reconstructionist, it interests me.

My best friends dad flew rotary for years. Owned his own bird and flew for a company that put refresh hours on aircraft that were just recently serviced. I spent many hours riding with him back in the day.

I am no pilot, but from what I understand...commercial aircraft have "highways" in the sky that they stay in. This is done in order to streamline aircraft in certain airspace. If pilots simply were given the green light to fly whatever route they want, in certain circumstances, it would cause issue. I know that recreational aircraft didn't have to follow those rules as we would fly wherever the hell we wanted just as long as it wasn't restricted airspace. In LA, I could only imagine that their airspace is VERY limited on where you can and can't fly simply due to the air traffic. I wonder if that had something to do with the flight path not taking the route that it did and going where you state due to the altitude restrictions due to weather. It appeared that t Kobe's bird would have crossed multiple flight paths to get outside of those restrictions due to altitude restrictions for commercial aircraft coming and going from LA airports.

A longer route wouldn't have made much difference in a aircraft that goes over 180mph. Accounts state it was in excess of 180 at impact. Your typical medical helicopters run that and that is FAST for a rotary aircraft.

The control tower audio is quite telling in that Kobe's pilot had to maintain location for nearly 15 minutes for airspace to clear in order to take the path he wanted to take to arrive at his location. He asked to fly with visuals versus electronics and asked for the control tower to assist with his flight path. That obviously proved to be fatal as the control tower states that he was too low for his path.

Sounds like pilot error with weather being a contributing factor from accounts online.

Pilots on here please correct me if I am wrong...but it seems as though weather and pilot error contributed to the crash. There were some quotes I read somewhere from a former military pilot speaking on private pilots taking risks at times in order to see clients get to where they need to be that commercial pilots won't take. Hate to think that risk would be taken, but it seems as though those risks were probably taken before with Kobe given the fact he didn't drive much in LA traffic and flew in that chopper for years simply to avoid LA traffic to get to practice and games.
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Old 01-28-2020, 01:43 AM
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A few comments based on what I have read:

1.The filed flight plan was VFR but there is still lots of restricted airspace around LA.
2. The weather and minimums at takeoff were quite acceptable for VFR in a helo.
3. The weather at destination was a bit iffy. The problem is that weather in between was not good. LA county sheriff's choppers opted to stay grounded that morning due to the fog.
4, There was very heavy fog in the area of the crash site.
5. Having to spend 15 minutes flying in circles to allow traffic to clear restricted airspace probably added some angst.
6. Switching to a solo IFR flight plan(if the pilot is so qualified) in flight (no co-pilot on board) is doable but challenging. If done, the flight path may be radically different.
7. Wanting to please the client and make the destination may have been a factor.

If the fog was pushing the pilot to go lower and lower in order to see the ground, and visibility was under 100 feet, and the pilot knows he is in an area of mountains leaves only a few choices.
A. Gain altitude to rise above the fog. This violates VFR rules and means the pilot has no visual reference to the ground and can easily lead to spatial disorientation.
B.Land immediately - except there was no place to land.
C.Turn around. Not easy to do when in the middle of the fog.

This is pure speculation but most likely the pilot felt the need to please the client and unfortunately flew into overwhelmingly dangerous weather conditions that eventually led to the crash. It will be interesting when the NTSB report comes out to see the prior history of the pilot in similar weather conditions - if any.

Last edited by ud69; 01-28-2020 at 01:45 AM..
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Old 01-28-2020, 02:01 AM
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When determining whether aircraft/helo accidents are a result of human error, they are always a result of human error. Humans build the machines and humans fly them. Its rarely ever one major factor but a compounding of small factors that turn into a vortex that goes from manageable to out of hand in exponential pace.
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Old 01-28-2020, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by shocka43 View Post

I am no pilot, but from what I understand...commercial aircraft have "highways" in the sky that they stay in. This is done in order to streamline aircraft in certain airspace. .
Tie up to my dock or drop anchor at dark on a clear night in the middle of your favorite southern Kentucky lake and look up. You can clearly see the highways in the sky as flight after flight on the same paths. A couple sites on the internet where you can see who the plane belongs too and where it is going. The highway looking to the south heading east to west is non stop Fed Ex as every airport on the east coast gets on the same highway into Memphis to the hub. The west bound line to your north is basically every east coast airport getting in line on the same highway for destinations Denver and on west to CA. The south to north highway is the one that surprised me the day I was looking at it. Every 3 minutes or so another plane on approach to O'hare in Chicago. Every flight going too Chicago from Philly to Texas gets in line somewhere over Tennessee heading back north. Interesting the paths many flights took, at least the last time I looked. Seems like they are burning fuel they do not need to, but I am sure a good method to the madness and keeps the skies safe.

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Old 01-28-2020, 10:05 AM
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I'm an old Cobra pilot, so, I know just enough to be a little dangerous. haha!

We never liked flying attack helicopters in bad weather. Flying at night, with night vision goggles, was fun enough.

From what I have read so far, it does seems to be the weather and pilot error/judgement that caused the mishap. I don't know that for sure, but, the early signs are pointing that way. We will see.

As far as going up the coastline, I believe that would have been even worse. The fog is usually thicker along the coastline, at a certain point. I never flew in California, but, I would assume that would be the case based on this weather pattern.

Very sad, no matter what the cause.
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Old 01-28-2020, 11:22 AM
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Southern California along the coast can endure dense fog very quickly. Helicopters are directed to "holding spots" while they wait for directions to the next holding spot. Victory Golf course is one. Signal Hill is another. It's pretty unsettling for pilot and passengers.

On one trip we were on hold for 10 minutes and the pilot was dripping wet with sweat while no one said a word. That was between LAX and Seal Beach.

Every year LAX closes down a few times due to fog and airplane flights are directed to Ontario where visibility is clear.
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Old 01-28-2020, 01:57 PM
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Clayton...

I use flight tracker. Pretty cool app.

Funny when the feds are up working dope in the area. I'll hear them hover and click on the bird circling.. To see no ID info on the app.... Only to look up and see the fed markings. Lol.
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Old 01-28-2020, 02:17 PM
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I fear flight tracker type apps are going to lead to something bad in this country at some point. Way to easy to see where flights are, when they coming, going, landing, altitude, speed, etc.....

The night 3 years ago my son left El Paso deployed to Jordan. Took me all of about 30 seconds on the internet to find the three charter flights transporting 450 of Americas finest overseas. At the call to duty ceremony the CO stressed how secretive the entire mission and transportation issue are suppose to be for security reasons, yet a computer hack dad like me figured out the secret leaving that night, where they were going, where they stopped for fuel, etc.... Once on the ground in Jordan we could tell by his parental tracker ap we put on his phone when he was 16 exactly where he was, so I switched to the computer and zoomed in on his base, security walls, gates, etc....... way too many details that the average person should not know.
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Old 01-28-2020, 04:29 PM
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So no easy answers it seems to avoid this happening again other than to suspend flights until the weather conditions improve. I wonder if this will lead to changes in flight clearances in this area during adverse weather.
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Old 01-28-2020, 04:37 PM
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I've never ridden in a helicopter, let along pilot one (unless you include the kiddie copters at Kings Island )


So let me ask this question, which may be obscenely ignorant, but why can't a helicopter just "hover" in space for as much fuel as it has available? I mean, is there not some sort of autopilot function that would allow it to rotate in space or perhaps a small zone until the pilot can take back over? If boats have depth finders, why don't helicopters? Why not have some sort of gauge that can read thru the fog, or use GPS to tell you about potential conflicts in that area or on the flight path?
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Old 01-28-2020, 05:03 PM
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MD Flyer is better equipped to answer that but from what I always understood after a while the chopper starts displacing too much air from the same spot under the blades and the lack of air reduces lift. Not sure its altitude or terrain dependent but I'm guessing the lower you are the worse it is.

This is what I read anyway why indefinite hovers were dangerous. Eventually run out of clean air?

This could all be BS.
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Old 01-28-2020, 05:38 PM
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How far would you have to move to get clean air? Could you alternate in a circular path over a mile area where you knew there was nothing below you? 1/2 a mile? 2 mile? Wouldn't an altimeter tell you that you were getting too low? It was SDF's comment about his pilot sweating bullets that got me thinking, I get human error, but I would have thought hovering in an area or range well above any known terrain would be easy peasy, provided you have enough fuel. I may have thought terribly wrong about that.
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Old 01-28-2020, 06:29 PM
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I have logged many helicopter rides in the LA basin, including Palmdale, Seal Beach, LAX ,Thousand Oaks, El Segundo, Edwards AFB, Canoga Park, et. al. Probably at least 1/week over 15 years.

One theory is that you need ground clearance equal to the diameter of the blade path.

100ft diameter = 100ft of ground clearance. But in truth many outside factors affect a this simple equation.

Here's a real life example using the post I made above. After the Seal Beach trip that ended with our touch down at SB, I asked the pilot, "Why did we not just sit it on the golf course below? There couldn't be any golfers out and you have 200 acres to work with." He said the Goodyear blimp was down there somewhere, and besides FAA would not let us take off and an avalanche of paper work and certifications would be needed.

Say what ?!
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Old 01-28-2020, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Medford View Post
I've never ridden in a helicopter, let along pilot one (unless you include the kiddie copters at Kings Island )


So let me ask this question, which may be obscenely ignorant, but why can't a helicopter just "hover" in space for as much fuel as it has available? I mean, is there not some sort of autopilot function that would allow it to rotate in space or perhaps a small zone until the pilot can take back over? If boats have depth finders, why don't helicopters? Why not have some sort of gauge that can read thru the fog, or use GPS to tell you about potential conflicts in that area or on the flight path?

This is the interesting part about this. These helicopters are equipped with instruments where they can fly IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). In other words, to keep it simple, they can use instrumentation to fly without having to see anything outside. Just like flying in a commercial airliner and you are going through the clouds. You have no outside visual reference and the pilots are flying by their instruments only.

To fly IFR, you have to file an IFR flight plan. It is my understanding, the pilot never filed an IFR flight plan. In other words, his flight plan was VFR (Visual Flight Rules). Either he did not expect to encounter any issues where he would need to fly IFR or he did not have the experience to do that. Not sure.

Flying IFR takes a whole lot more skill than flying visually. Flying a helicopter with instruments only is not easy. I would be curious to see how often this pilot ever flew with instruments only and under IFR.

If I had to guess, he thought he could make it with a visual flight plan. Unfortunately, and sadly, it did not turn out that way.
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Old 01-28-2020, 07:38 PM
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Keep in mind rotary aircraft can auto rotate and land with mechanical failure in certain conditions. This obviously isn't the case here.

The reconstructionist in me, with minimal aircraft investigation training, knows about debris fields, impact, velocity, and simple physics. The debris field in Kobe's crash is fairly extensive given the terrain. Flat terrain with a bird going 180 mph, it wouldn't be unlikely to have a debris field in excess of the "600 feet" that was reported here. This was hilly terrain which would limit a debris field.

With that said. You can see on the hillside the area of impact and how the rotation of the craft, with the 180 plus speed, carried it to it's final rest where it caught fire. Simpleton observations:

1. Pilot had no intentions of "taking it easy" getting to destination if the speed is verified to be 180+ on an aircraft that will go 188. That's pretty much cracked wide open.

2. Pilot hovered for 15 minutes. Indicating that conditions, at one point in time, weren't safe to continue given weather and other air traffic.

3. Flight path comes to an abrupt stop. It didn't spiral out of control. It was a direct impact based on the flight path and the above evidence of the debris field.

4. A "soft" landing wouldn't have caused the damage it did or the immediate fatalities.

5. It is also very likely that when danger presented itself it was too late for the pilot to correct the error to avoid the danger. I would imagine more video evidence will emerge as the mountain biker video did today.

As SDF mentioned with the FAA. Private pilots have all of these FAA regulations in conjunction with the desire to please a client. That would explain the risk to deliver the client to a destination and the desire to plow through sketchy conditions.

Hate to say, it...but given Kobe being in Philly Saurday...early AM game on Sunday in LA...there was probably a time crunch getting him from his departure location to his facility....therefore the risk was taken to fly.
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