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Douglas & Douglas Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer
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A Look at Aviation Accidents Like the One That Killed Kobe Bryant & Other Passengers


The tragedy involving basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, the pilot and six other passengers, all of whom passed in a helicopter crash in late January, highlights just how dangerous flight rules (as well as weather conditions) can be when it comes to aviation accidents. Specifically, in addition to the role that fog and high terrain played, the pilot’s use of “special visual flight rules,” which they can request when flying in controlled airspace, could very well have contributed to the crash.

According to reports from a number of pilots, while the aircraft was likely stable, it was flown into an object or the ground (known as “controlled flight into terrain”) because visibility was an issue; historically, a circumstance that has caused most aviation accidents. Helicopters present an additional challenge because they operate at low altitudes. In addition, according to helicopter pilots, mountain flying like this is a specialist skill, where, even on a clear day, there can be visual illusions and false horizons.

Flight Rules & Negligence

On this particular day, the pilot was flying in what’s known as “VFR” mode, which involves flight principles based on high visibility and calm weather (versus “IFR” mode, when aircraft cannot be safely operated visually, which is significantly more restrictive). Accidents can occur when helicopters flyin VFR mode in conditions that are below VFR limits, which involve a lack of pre-flight planning and risk. In fact, the most common and most fatal accidents are controlled flights into terrain and loss of control, the leading cause of which is VFR flying in poor weather or at night. In other words, conditions like the ones that Bryant flew under that day call for good decision-making and, ultimately, someone saying no to flying that day, especially given how much fog there was. In addition, under the special visual flight rules that the pilot received permission to proceed under, he was supposed to stay low, but, instead, appears to have flown into the clouds.

Was It a Mechanical Failure?

As the investigation proceeds, there has also been a focus on the type of helicopter involved – the Sikorsky S-76. There have been a number of crashes – 16 of them fatal — when it comes to this aircraft; a high number, considering that there have been a limited number of them manufactured since 2007. Investigators have noted a high rate of descent, which can indicate that the helicopter suffered a mechanical failure.

If You’ve Been in A Florida Aviation Accident, Contact an Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered as the result of an aviation accident, contact our Jacksonville aviation accident attorneys at Douglas & Douglas, Attorneys at Law. We have years of experience representing aviation accident victims, and the specialized knowledge required to navigate these kinds of claims.


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