Following the heartbreaking death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, Fox News reported that the debris field in California where the helicopter crashed is between 500 and 600 feet. The scene was described as “devastating.” The helicopter was flying from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana to Burbank, according to National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy.
“Initial information showed the helicopter was flying under visual flight rules [VFR] from John Wayne Airport to just southeast of Burbank Airport,” Homendy said. “Around Burbank, the pilot requested to transit controlled airspace under special visual flight rules.”
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“Special VFR is an air traffic control [ATC] authorization that allows an aircraft to proceed through controlled airspace at less than the basic VFR minimums of 1,000 foot ceiling and 3 miles visibility. ATC advised the pilot there was a delay due to traffic. While awaiting approval, the helicopter circled for 12 minutes until the special VFR was approved by air traffic control.”
According to Homendy, the helicopter traveled through Burbank and Van Nuys airspace at 1,400 feet and the pilot then requested Flight Following, “which was described by Homendy as radar assistance which helps a pilot avoid traffic and provides communication between air traffic control and a pilot,” said Fox News.
Homendy added that approximately four minutes later, the pilot said they were climbing to avoid a cloud layer. The pilot did not reply when ATC asked what the pilot planned to do. “Radar data indicates that the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet and then began a left descending turn. Last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m. and is consistent with the accident location,” said Homendy.
When asked if there was any chance of survival, Homendy said officials were still investigating and called the site as “pretty devastating accident scene.”
According to Homendy, the pilot had a commercial flying certificate, was a certified flight instructor, and as of July 29 had recorded 8,200 hours of flight time experience.