Kobe Bryant’s Sikorsky-s76 helicopter – who makes the choppers? – The Sun

IT is one year on from the fatal Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crash in Calabasas that took the lives of nine people including Kobe Bryant.

With a hearing around the corner on February 9th 2021, many are still wondering how an aircraft with a good safety record could fail its passengers. 

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What do we know about Kobe Bryant's helicopter? 

The Sikorsky S-76B, which is made by Lockheed Martin, can carry up to 12 passengers and has a top speed of 178mph. 

It reportedly costs $13million (about £10million).

On the company website it is billed as an aircraft specialising in search and rescue and VIP and executive transportation. 

Sikorsky models are used by Donald Trump and nine other global heads of state. 

His specific helicopter — registration N72EX — was built in 1991. 

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, it was owned by Island Express Holding Corp, a private helicopter transport company.

It was not clear whether Bryant chartered the helicopter or leased it.

The sportsman used the helicopter to beat Los Angeles' chronic traffic problem and even to go the doctors.

According to a GQ profile, Kobe said he also used the aircraft to keep fit.

A report said: "Given his broken finger, his fragile knees, his sore back and achy feet, not to mention his chronic agita, Bryant can't sit in a car for two hours.

"The helicopter, therefore, ensures that he gets to Staples Center feeling fresh, that his body is warm and loose and fluid as mercury when he steps onto the court."

How did Kobe Bryant's Sikorsky S-76 crash? 

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched separate crash investigations.

Among the factors expected to be at the forefront of the probe are weather conditions, given that forecasters reported low clouds and limited visibility in the vicinity at the time of the crash.

Various eyewitnesses recounted thick fog over the foothills where the helicopter went down.

Visibility in the area was so bad Sunday morning that the LA Police Department grounded its helicopter fleet until that afternoon, the Los Angeles Times and CNN reported. 

Audio between the pilot of helicopter Kobe’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, which had the tail number N72EX, and air traffic control reveals he was told he was flying too low.

A recording from air traffic control obtained by The Sun reveals that controllers were attempting to guide the helicopter, but lost contact moments before its fatal fall.

The pilot of Bryant's helicopter, Ara Zobayan was described as "an incredible pilot" who always "remained cool, calm and collected".

The one-time star forward was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area's notorious traffic.

There were no immediate indications of defects or systems failures.

In February 2020, the board said an examination of the helicopter’s engines and rotors found no evidence of “catastrophic mechanical failure” that could explain why the airship would have plunged into the terrain.

Have Sikorsky helicopters crashed before? 

There have been more than 875 S-76s produced, according to Sikorsky. 

Not including Sunday’s accident, since 2009, models of the helicopter have had seven fatal crashes killing 33, according to a database maintained by the Aviation Safety Network.

But it is said over its 40-plus years of service it was regarded to have a strong safety record. 

What have Sikorsky said? 

In a statement Lockheed Martin vowed to provide assistance to the NTSB in probing the fiery crash near Calabasas that killed the NBA legend and sent shockwaves around the globe. 

A spokesman said: "We extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by today’s Sikorsky S-76B accident in Calabasas, California."

"We have been in contact with the NTSB and stand ready to provide assistance and support to the investigative authorities and our customer. 

"Safety is our top priority; if there are any actionable findings from the investigation, we will inform our S-76 customers."

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