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Report: Kobe Bryant Pilot Had 2015 Weather- Related Infraction

Ara Zobayan had been disciplined by FAA for entering LAX airspace without the OK
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2020 6:30 AM CST

(Newser) – The pilot of the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas last month, killing Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others, took heat in 2015 from the Federal Aviation Administration for entering busy airspace near Los Angeles International Airport, even though air traffic control had warned him from doing so. Per records seen by the Los Angeles Times, Ara Zobayan had been told to stay out of the airspace in the helicopter he was flying for a charter company in May 2015 because bad weather at the time had reduced visibility under what's known as visual flight rules (VFR). Zobayan, 50, requested special VFR in that incident, which would have allowed him to keep flying even under reduced visibility, but he was denied that request by air traffic controllers and told to stay out of LAX airspace. He entered it anyway.

Zobayan's violation of federal flight rules earned him an FAA investigation. Per FAA records seen by CNN, Zobayan "was counseled on operating in Class B airspace, special VFR weather minimums, proper planning, reviewing weather, and anticipating required action. He was cooperative and receptive to the counseling." The report adds that "there are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan." Per the AP, it's not clear if Zobayan was carrying passengers at the time. In the Bryant crash, Zobayan had reportedly struggled to control his chopper in heavy clouds before the accident. (Read more Kobe Bryant stories.)

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