The loss of Kobe Bryant and his daughter has gripped the world, leaving it in shock. While there have been a countless number of reports, here is what we know about the helicopter and the crash.
WHO: At 10am on the 27th January 2020, legendary Oscar and Emmy award-winning basketballer, father of four girls, husband to Vanessa Laine and inspiration to countless aspiring athletes, Kobe Bryant, crashed to his death.
Along with him was his 14-year-old daughter Gianna Maria. The crash killed all aboard the helicopter, a Sirkorsky 76B, is said to have carried a total of 9 people. The passengers have been identified as Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser, John Albotelli, Kerry Albotelli, Gianna’s friend and teammate, Alyssa Altobelli, and an unidentified pilot.
WHAT: Sirkosky 76B’s prototype took its maiden flight in March 13 1977. There have been 1,090 units built over the last 42 years. Starting out as an S-74, a corporate craft, it was later reengineered into the S-76 that it currently is. It’s rotor blades and rotor heads come from the same technology as Black Hawk tech. It was the brainchild of Russian-American airplane engineer Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky.
This model was built for commercial use and oil spelunking. So far, 101 units of the S-76 have been made. It has gone through several upgrades over the years as any tech machinery is wont to do. It has also enjoyed what is termed by the industry as a “strong safety record.” National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the crash.
The plane is said to have caught fire, lost control and ploughed into the hillside. The Sikorsy 76B model is licensed to carry 6 passengers with a crew of 2 which brings it to 8. A decade ago, it was believed Kobe hired a chopper anytime he needed one. Global Air pegs renting it at $1984.42 per hour. TMZ reports that the aircraft belonged to Kobe. The cost of a Sikorsky 76B’s current market value is a minimum of $600,000 for a used one and a maximum of $1.0m for something new. It is used by VIPs and as a means of corporate transportation. This Sikorsky, however, was not owned by Kobe.
WHERE: The crash happened in Calabasas, Los Angeles, California, home to many a celebrity. It is said the crash caused a bushfire which made it difficult for the medical team to act. There were no survivors.
WHEN: Kobe did not keep his craft to himself. When his teammate needed a doctor, it was his chopper that rushed them to hospital. He loved to fly from his home to the STAPLES Centre, home of the Los Angeles Lakers. According to a 2010 interview with GQ, Kobe said the helicopter, as the public perceived, was not a symbol of peaking wealth. It was because he could not, at 6’6”, sit for two hours in a car.
The helicopter allowed him to arrive in court fresh, his muscles loose, his ligaments limber. He basically played better because of his craft. He had aches and pains thanks to the hard training and fit, demanding life of an athlete. His creaky bones needed tender loving care.
Kobe and Gianna were on their way to Mamba Sports Academy, which he founded, to watch his daughter’s basketball team, which he coached, play. There are two Academies, named after Kobe’s self-proclaimed nickname/alter ego, Black Mamba (we leave that to your imagination), one in Thousand Oaks where they were headed, and another in Redondo Beach. Technologically advanced institutions training elite athletes.
WHY: Choppers and planes are safer than cars, is the statistic we get from the industry. Which one of us has not wished for an helicopter when stuck in traffic? There are daily craft commuters which is why we have been introduced to Uber Copter. Forbes say “The fatal accident rate for helicopters in the U.S. was 0.82 per 100,000 flight hours in 2019, according to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team, with 24 accidents claiming 55 lives.” Kobe’s VIP aircraft is deemed to have been safe, flying under difficult conditions.
HOW: Speculation about Black Mamba’s death has ranged from assassination, which is currently hitting 97.9 million and counting on Google, to bad weather. NTSB is clearly avoiding any speculation, but they cede the crash could have been the result of foggy weather that is said to have grounded planes at LAX. There has not been any indication of engine failure or a malfunction of any kind.
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