Report: Kobe Bryant’s Helicopter Pilot Violated FAA Weather-Related Rules

Brad Sullivan
2 Min Read

The details surrounding the tragic death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on Jan. 26 continue to unfold, with a new report indicating that Bryant’s helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan, had previously violated weather-related flight rules in 2015.

That discovery came during a check of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforcement records.

The reports indicated that Zobayan had violated FAA rules by crossing into busy airspace with reduced visibility near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 11, 2015.

Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven other people, including Zobayan, were killed on the morning of Jan. 26 while en route to a girl’s basketball tournament.

Speculation surfaced after the tragedy that fog may have played a role in the crash.

In the 2015 incident, Zobayan ignored an order from the air traffic controller at LAX.

“According to the FAA report, Zobayan’s helicopter was near the Hawthorne, California, airport and heading north when he asked the LAX tower for permission to cross LAX airspace,” the Associated Press reported. “Zobayan was told that weather conditions didn’t meet the minimum for pilots using visual flight rules (VFR) — that is, flying by sight.

“Zobayan was asked whether he could maintain ‘VFR conditions.’

“Zobayan replied that he could ‘maintain special VFR’ — meaning he sought permission to fly by sight in less-than-optimal visibility.

“When air traffic control denied the request and told him to stay clear of the area, Zobayan replied that he could ‘maintain VFR,’ but during the conversation, the helicopter entered the airspace, according to the record.”

Zobayan was reprimanded for his actions, but was allowed to continue flying.

The news surrounding the tragedy comes just two days before a Monday memorial service for Bryant, his daughter and the other victims will be held at Staples Center.

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Brad is a freelance writer for, who can clearly recall watching Lakers games in 1972 as they captured the first of their 11 Los Angeles-based titles. The franchise's evolution into a beloved and iconic franchise among its fan base since that memorable year allows for a wider perspective to be a part of his writing about the team's current fortunes.