By Jessica Schladebeck

The pilot operating a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others when it crashed in Southern California last month was previously disciplined by the Federal Aviation Administration for violating weather-related flight rules in 2015.


Ara Zobayan died when his helicopter plunged at a high rate of speed into a hillside in Calabasas on a foggy morning on Jan. 26. There has been some speculation the 50-year-old pilot became disoriented due to reduced visibility brought on by the weather, though the incident remains under investigation. AdvertisementRemaining Time -0:55

FAA records obtained by The Los Angeles Times indicated Zobayan violated weather-related flight rules while operating an Island Express helicopter on May 11, 2015.


At the time, he was denied clearance through Los Angeles International Airport because weather conditions did not meet the minimum for pilots using visual flight rules — or relying solely on their vision to fly.

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Despite orders to avoid the area, Zobayan still entered the airspace and then later reported the incident to officials himself.


He “took responsibility for his action, and was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance,” the enforcement records read.

“Mr. Zobayan was counseled on operating in Class B airspace, special VFR weather minimums, proper planning, reviewing weather and anticipating required action. He was cooperative and receptive to the counseling.”


Zobayan was still working with Island Express when he crashed his helicopter on the way to a youth basketball game last month. Everyone aboard the aircraft was killed in the incident, including Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, her basketball coach Christina Mauser and Orange Coast College head baseball coach John Altobelli as well as his wife, Keri, and one his daughters, Alyssa. Related Gallery

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Remembering the life and career of Kobe Bryant

The New York Times recently reported Zobayan was personally licensed to fly in low-visibility situations. He should have been prevented from flying last month however through Island Express, which does not hold the same license status.


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