The pilot that flew Kobe Bryant’s helicopter in the crash that killed the famed basketball player and eight others got in trouble five years ago for violating FAA rules in bad weather, a new report says.

Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter at the time of the Jan. 26 crash, also died in the tragic accident.



The beloved pilot and flight instructor was certified to fly in special visibility conditions like sub-optimal weather, but investigations are ongoing into why the pilot flew the chopper on a day so foggy the LAPD’s own choppers were grounded.

It remains unclear what, if any, role the foggy conditions may have played in the crash.

The report surfaced from the Los Angeles Times a month after Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in the accident.

The resurfaced report detailed Zobayan was disciplined by the Federal Aviation Administration on May 11, 2015, when he flew into busy airspace in questionable weather conditions — even though he was told not to do so.

Zobayan was flying near the Los Angeles International Airport when he asked permission to cross into the busy airspace.

Air traffic controllers told the helicopter pilot that due to weather conditions, he did not meet visibility rules to fly.

Zobayan was questioned by air traffic controllers if he could keep “VFR conditions” — meaning basic visibility — if he were to cross into the airspace.

The pilot told traffic controllers he could maintain “special” visibility when flying, the report said.

This meant he would be flying with less than ideal visibility conditions.

Air traffic controllers denied his request to enter the airspace — but during his conversation, Zobayan crossed into the airspace anyways, the report said.

This led to an investigation from the FAA, the report showed.

The report said Zobayan “admitted his error, took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance.”



“There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan," the report added.

Another pilot, Shawn Coyle, told the Los Angeles Times the violation would not have been considered serious.

“I don’t know a single pilot out there who hasn’t violated a rule,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

“If that’s the only violation he’s ever had then I would say he’s pretty safe.”

A total of nine people, including Kobe, daughter Gianna, and Zobayan, died in the deadly January helicopter crash.

Sarah Chester and her teen daughter Payton were among those that died.

Orange Coast College basketball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their teenage daughter Alyssa, were also killed.

Funerals have begun for the victims of the accident.

Girls Basketball coach Christina Mauser, who also died in the crash, was laid to rest in a private ceremony on Feb. 16.

Kobe and Gianna were laid to rest in a private funeral on Feb. 7, it was revealed earlier this month.

Investigations are ongoing into whether the foggy conditions may have been linked to the cause of the deadly crash that killed Kobe and eight others.

A recent report showed that Island Express Helicopters, the company which owned the helicopter in the fatal accident, was only certified to have flights under normal flight conditions.

Zobayan was flying under special flight rules during part of the deadly flight, The New York Times report showed.

Although Zobayan himself was certified to fly in the foggy conditions and use special flight instruments to do so, the helicopter company did not have the certification.

Fellow pilots and friends of Zobayan attested to his skills as a pilot in tributes after his death.




Jared Yochim, a pilot who knew Zobayan for 12 years, told The Daily Beast: "When you think of pilots and you think Tom Cruise and Maverick, that wasn't what was happening there.

"I promise you, any flying that Ara was doing… he was in a safe condition. He’s not a guy to push limits.

"He’s a rule follower and he knows the rules and the regulations."

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