NTSB Announces Pilot Experienced ‘Spatial Disorientation’ In Fatal Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

What has been rumored to be the cause of the fatal helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others has been confirmed this week.

The pilot flying Kobe Bryant’s chopper climbed to 4,000 feet, but then descended rapidly in a left turn, which is a maneuver consistent with “spatial disorientation” in limited visibility, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials said Tuesday.

Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and seven others were killed when the helicopter they were on crashed into a hillside in Southern California last January. Everybody on board were headed to a youth basketball tournament in Ventura County.

Via NY Post:

“NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said during a virtual hearing to announce the probable cause of the Southern California accident that the pilot was legally prohibited from flying into clouds but continued doing so nonetheless.The board “will discuss whether the pilot faced pressure to complete the flight.

What were the expectations of the pilot under the company policy? Did he put pressure on himself and what actions could he have taken to avoid flying into the clouds?” Sumwalt said.The board has said pilots can become confused about an aircraft’s attitude and acceleration when they cannot see the sky or landscape around them.

Sumwalt said the board “will discuss 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.”

The board said previously an examination of the helicopter’s engines and rotors found no evidence of “catastrophic mechanical failure.”

Those who died along with Bryant and his daughter include: John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa; Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton.

“The pilot took pride in these positions with the boat both the client and Island Express. They had a good relationship with the client and likely did not want to disappoint them by not completing the flight. This self-induced pressure can adversely affect pilot decision-making and judgment,” the official said.

“The resulting dissent and acceleration were conducive for the pilot to experience a summative graphic illusion in which he would incorrectly perceive that the helicopter was climbing when it was descending. The helicopter continued this deep dissent the pilot was either not referencing the instruments or having difficulty interpreting or believing them due to the compelling vestibular illusions and he did not successfully recover the helicopter,” the NTSB official said in the meeting.

Of the 184 fatal aircraft accidents resulting from spatial disorientation, 20 of them involved helicopters.

Vanessa Bryant has since blamed the pilot for the accident. She and the other grieving families also faulted the companies that owned and operated the helicopter.