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World Lack of ‘black box’ could hinder Kobe Bryant crash investigation

05:35  01 february  2020
05:35  01 february  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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As investigators try to determine the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others Sunday, they could be hindered by the aircraft’s lack of “ black box ” recorders — key safety technology the National Transportation Safety Board has been urging federal aviation authorities to

As investigators try to determine the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others Sunday, they could be hindered by the aircraft’s lack of “ black box ” recorders — key safety technology the National Transportation Safety Board has been urging federal aviation authorities to

Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant© Getty Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant As investigators try to determine the cause of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others Sunday, they could be hindered by the aircraft’s lack of “black box” recorders — key safety technology the National Transportation Safety Board has been urging federal aviation authorities to require for more than a decade.

NTSB investigators said the helicopter, which crashed into a hillside, also lacked a terrain avoidance warning system, something the transportation safety agency also has long recommended be standard. The pilot missed clearing the hill by 20 to 30 feet, investigators said Tuesday.

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Kobe Bryant , his 13-year-old daughter, along with seven others were reported dead in the crash . A black box according to officials is not a requirement on such an The absence of the black box in the helicopter was noted by Washington Post could hinder the investigation of the cause of the crash .

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on The pilot had also asked for "flight following," which means air traffic control would have been in regular contact and could help the helicopter avoid

While airliners and some other aircraft are required to have the recorders, which can gather technical data as well as audio and video recordings, many helicopters are not. The Federal Aviation Administration says it’s difficult to make the economic case for requiring the devices because they don’t prevent crashes.

Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB board member leading the investigation, highlighted the long-standing recommendations at a news conference Tuesday.

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Moments before Los Angeles basketball great Kobe Bryant , his 13-year-old daughter and the seven others perished in a helicopter crash , the pilot had tried to climb out of layer of clouds, but the aircraft then banked sharply and lurched toward the ground.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 Lack of ‘ black box ’ could hinder probe | Sky U.S The NTSB has long urged federal aviation authorities to require black boxes on

Had the helicopter been equipped with voice and data recorders, Homendy said, “That would have helped us significantly in this investigation.”

NTSB investigators continued their work Tuesday, sifting through the crash wreckage, trying to understand what happened and beginning interviews with witnesses. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner said it had recovered all nine bodies from the crash scene, three of which had been recovered Sunday afternoon. Four of the people on board, including Bryant, were formally identified by fingerprints.

The group, which included ­Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter ­Gianna, was riding in a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter Sunday when it crashed about 9:45 a.m. into a hillside in Calabasas, Calif., about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. They were headed from John Wayne Airport to a basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.

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In his last radio message, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed Sunday in California, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, said he was climbing to avoid The last radar contact was around 9:45 a.m., near the site of the crash . The chopper didn’t have a black box , not was it required to, said Homendy.

'Devastating': America mourns Kobe Bryant after death in helicopter crash . Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the helicopter, said the crash was more likely caused by bad Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying

Conditions were less than optimal for flying, with heavy fog reported not long after the aircraft took off. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, asked for, and received, special clearance to fly by sight in worse than normal weather.

Experts say most of the time, helicopter pilots fly under what are known as visual flight rules, seeing and avoiding obstacles, like drivers.

But in bad weather, certified pilots can fly under instrument flight rules, relying on airspeed indicators and dashboard tools, under the direction of air traffic control.

Though it’s too early to rule anything out, Jerry Kidrick, a retired Army colonel who now teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., said, there’s every indication weather conditions — and the pilot’s decision to continue to fly by sight — were a factor in the crash.

The helicopter’s rapid climb and fast descent, as shown on radar, suggest the pilot became disoriented, he said.

“He made some very rapid movements. That’s indicative of the fact that he was spatially disoriented,” Kidrick said.

“A black box would have been able to tell if that aircraft was in fact maneuvering erratically prior to impact and that would seem to indicate that the pilot was, in fact, experiencing spatial disorientation,” Kidrick said, referring to when a pilot loses their equilibrium and can’t tell up from down.

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While air traffic control could have denied the special permission to fly in worse than normal visibility, experts say it isn’t a typical response if traffic control believes there is enough visibility in their airspace. Homendy said it’s “very common” for pilots to make such requests.

“They can say no, but they try to accommodate pilot requests if they can,” Kidrick said. “It doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do. It doesn’t mean it’s wise, but because helicopters have unique capabilities, they allow them to operate in some lower weather conditions.”

The crash site, however, should be able to tell investigators a lot about what happened. They have sophisticated technology that will allow them to figure out where the first impact of the rotor blade was, for example.

The weather is only one piece of the investigation. Investigators also recovered the wreckage; Homendy said key parts of the helicopter had been found, along with an iPad and iPhone, maintenance records and the helicopter’s operating manual. Investigators also loaded flight data from the crash onto a drone to fly the route for themselves.

Homendy said the NTSB would issue a preliminary factual report in 10 days, but a final report with conclusions about what caused the crash could take 18 months.

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And without a black box, the task of reaching those conclusions could prove to be more difficult.

An NTSB review of crashes between 2005 and 2017 involving 185 aircraft found 159 did not have a recorder on board and that in 18 of those cases the causes were at least partially unknown. The board said the boxes are a critical yet underused technology that is “readily available, easily installed and largely affordable.”

In 2006, the NTSB wrote to the head of the FAA to highlight the tangled rules for recorders that applied in particular to the S-76. The board highlighted a 2004 crash in the Gulf of Mexico of a helicopter that wasn’t required to have a data recorder and had an improperly installed voice recorder.

“The lack of recorded data significantly hampered the investigation,” the board wrote.

The next year, a Finnish S-76 crashed; it had been required to have both kinds of recorders under European rules. The NTSB credited the data with allowing investigators to identify an urgent safety issue that affected all S-76s.

The board also called on the FAA in 2013 to require the recorders on many kinds of new helicopters and for older helicopters to be retrofitted after investigating a deadly crash of an air ambulance in Missouri. When the NTSB reiterated the recommendation in 2018 after a plane crash, it issued a memo that summarized why the FAA said it hadn’t acted.

In 2017, the FAA told the NTSB it was seeking to perform a cost-benefit analysis. But the agency said it was required to demonstrate to the White House budget office that the safety benefits of new regulations outweigh their costs and that it was unable “to justify a recorder mandate because the benefits of recorders are difficult to identify and quantify because the absence of a recorder will never cause an accident.”

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Last year, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined the NTSB’s call after a helicopter crashed into a New York skyscraper, telling the Associated Press the FAA’s failure to act was a “serious concern.”

An FAA spokesman said the NTSB’s 2018 summary was the most up to date information on the subject.

ian.duncan@washpost.com

luz.lazo@washpost.com

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