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As the city of Los Angeles and even the world mourns the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, the determination of the crash has yet to be determined.
New York Magazine has reported that the weather conditions in the Los Angeles area yesterday morning were similar to those that have caused other helicopter crashes over the years.
The helicopter that was carrying Bryant, Bryant's 13-year-old daughter and the seven other victims was a Sikorsky S-76B. It took off shortly after 9 a.m. from John Wayne Airport in Orange County and was headed towards the Mamba Academy in Thousands Oaks, a location approximately 70 miles from Kobe's home.
During the course of the 40 minute ride, the helicopter was expected to take route around the Los Angeles basin, and cut through the coastal plain of central Los Angeles before emerging around the basin of the San Fernando Valley.
When the flight took off, the weather was marginal with a solid overcast at 1,300 feed. The pilot was relying on his ability to see the terrain below him and stayed below the clouds.
Data transmitted by the plane's transponder confirmed that the flight did climb to an altitude of 800 feet in Orange County, but once it reached Calabasas, it was less than 500 feet above the ground. Wise believes the pilot was trying to put a safety margin between himself and the terrain. This put it very close to the bottom of the cloud layer reported at that time at nearby Van Nuys Airport.
We may never know if the helicopter did travel through the clouds, but if it did it would've been an almost impossible invisible line to cross.
Another aviation professor explains how it feels when you're flying through the unknown.
“When you get in the soup, your senses don’t work,” Cline, the aviation professor, said. “For me, I always feel like I’m falling to the right. Other people might feel like they’re falling to the left, or climbing.”