Retired military pilot weighs in on helicopter crash that claimed Kobe Bryant’s life

We spoke with a local helicopter pilot about the model that Kobe Bryant was in when he died.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The National Transportation and Safety Board is investigating the crash that took the lives of nine people Sunday morning. Reports said NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were two of the nine people on board.

The news devastated fans across the world. None of the passengers survived the crash.

NBA icon Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna among 9 killed in helicopter crash

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Action News Jax reporter Meghan Moriarty spoke with Mark McManus, a former navy pilot, to learn more about the helicopter and issues pilots can face in the air. McManus has flown 14 different helicopter models. He spent 2,500 hours in an H60 Seahawk and has 3,000 hours of total flight time.

McManus was the Director of Air and Port Operations at Naval Air Station Jacksonville from 2012 to 2015.

He said it’s unlikely the crash was mechanical or weather related, even though there was fog during the flight.

“A little bit of fog should not have been a problem for the helicopter,” McManus said. “It’s instrument rated, so it can fly through a whole lot worse than that. It was hilly terrain, so if you were flying in fog, typically with GPS and current navigation they know where the hills are. They can stay above that altitude.”

He added that most crashes come down to human error.

”Odds are, it was probably either the pilot got disoriented and ended up just crashing,“ McManus said.

The helicopter was a S76 Sikorsky. McManus said it’s a large helicopter that has been around since the 80′s. It is typically very safe.

“It’s a corporate helicopter,” McManus said. “They use it to fly out of the oil rigs.“

The helicopter is a twin engine, which according to McManus, means if one of the engines fails, the pilot can usually still use the other to land safely. He said if there is a fire on board, the pilot can typically also still attempt to land safely.

On the back end of the helicopter is the tail rotor. McManus said if that part of the helicopter fails, the aircraft will have a catastrophic issue.

“Tail rotor malfunction will typically happen if the tail rotor hits something,” McManus said. “If you lose the tail rotor, you really can’t fly anymore.”

NTSB flew into Southern California Sunday night to begin its investigation. McManus said the investigation could take months or even years.

“They’ll get all the wreckage that they can, lay it out on a big hangar or warehouse somewhere, and they will go through every piece,“ McManus said. “It’s just a tragedy, and I feel bad for all the families involved.“

McManus spoke based on the information available about the crash as of Sunday, Jan. 26.