Veteran pilot says poor visibility could have caused crash that killed Bryant, others

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 18:20:09-05

(WXYZ) — A veteran pilot from metro Detroit is sharing his insight with 7 Action News about the tragic crash that took the life of basketball star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other victims.

As the daily flight captain for Chopper 7, and a veteran U.S. Army pilot, Capt. Carl has spent more than three decades in the skies. He says the terrible crash of a Sikorsky S-76 twin turbo engine helicopter in Calabasas, California immediately came as a shock, given its strong safety record.

“Basically, it’s a small Blackhawk to be honest with you," Carl said. "It’s got a very good record, and a very reliable aircraft.”

The captain says flying in thick fog and facing worsening conditions could have contributed to the crash that resulted in the pilot's rapid decent. Specifically, the lack of visibility could have made it hard to tell direction.

“Flat light conditions – they can disorient a pilot and let them think they are higher than they are,” Carl said.

The helicopter model is a known favorite of executives and medical rescue flights often used by hospitals. Carl said it's typically equipped with the ability to fly based on instrument control or switch to visual mode.

One to two pilots can operate it based on how many are on board. He says while findings of a preliminary investigation will offer some clues, a longer NTSB and FAA investigation will likely go on and establish if pilot or equipment failure occurred.

“The possibility that he climbed prior has me concerned," Carl added. "Whether or not the aircraft did that on it’s own.”

Carl also is among others sending prayers to the Bryant family and all those whose lives were cut short in that helicopter crash.