SkyFOX pilot 'surprised' by choice to fly Bryant's chopper despite dense fog

Investigators spent Monday going through the wreckage of Kobe Bryant’s downed helicopter. Early reports indicate the helicopter carrying Bryant and eight others was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough for Los Angeles-area police choppers to remain grounded.

Helicopters are a fairly common mode of transportation in commercial and personal-use cases. FOX 13 New's SkyFOX pilot Ryan Bell described weather conditions that would typically prevent Bay Area chopper pilots from going up.

SkyFOX is a single-engine VFR, or Visual Flight Rules, helicopter, meaning it will only fly when the pilot can maintain visual contact with the ground and the horizon.

Bells says foggy conditions like those on the day of Kobe Bryant's crash are a no-go.

”The dangers of flying in the fog is that you lose your visual contact with the horizon and with the ground. You get disoriented it’s demanding and dangerous. It is the most challenging conditions a pilot can experience,” Bell said.

Flight data appears to show Bryant's twin-engine Sikorsky aircraft was descending at more than 4,000-feet-per-minute at 184 miles an hour when it crashed, leaving debris scattered over the length of a football field.

Bell says the pilot may have been flying low on purpose.

”He potentially was scud-running the aircraft, which means he's trying to lower his altitude to get below the cloud cover to fly visually,” he said. 

The conditions were bad enough Sunday that the Los Angeles Police Department and County Sheriff's Office kept their choppers on the ground.

Bell said he was shocked and surprised by reports Bryant's helicopter flew, despite the weather.

“It is unfortunate. A lot of people lose their life and it is potentially weather-related. It could've been avoided with a good pre-flight and stayed on the ground,” he said.

Along with the weather, federal investigators will look at mechanical records and the pilot’s backgroundto determine what caused the crash.