Know The Helicopter In Which Kobe Bryant Died

On the 26th of January, 2020 a helicopter crashed in California. In this crash, all nine people died including Kobe Bryant, his thirteen years old daughter Gianna.

Kobe Bryant With his daughter Gianna
Kobe Bryant With his daughter Gianna

Who Was Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant was an American professional Basketball player. Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The aircraft which crashed was a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter. It was registered to the Island Express under registration number N72EX. The helicopter departed from John Wayne Airport, California to Camarillo Airport, California at about 09:10.

The altitude of the helicopter was below 1800 ft sea level and in between 410 ft to 610 ft above ground level throughout the flight.

Probable Cause of the Helicopter Crash

National Transportation Safety Board, an independent agency of the United States responsible for transportation accident investigation determined that the probable cause of the crash was the decision made by the pilot to carry on the flight under visual flight rules into instrumental meteorological conditions.

Flight Path With Timeline
Flight Path With Timeline

This resulted in the loss of control and spatial disorientation. Island Express’s safety management of helicopters was also questioned as some important avionics and features like Flight Data Monitor (FDM) or Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) were not fit in the helicopter.

However, it was identified that all of the passengers and the pilot were not in the influence of any drugs/alcohol.

Kobe Bryant and Sikorsky S-76 Helicopter

The Helicopter in which Kobe Bryant was flying was Sikorsky S-76. This aircraft is developed by an American company named Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. Sikorsky S-76 has four blades in its rotor system i.e. in both main rotor and tail rotor. It is powered by twin turboshaft engines.

Sikorsky S-76C Helicopter
Sikorsky S-76C Model

The landing gear in the S-76 can be retracted. It is mainly used as a commercial utility helicopter.

1. The World Record of Sikorsky S-76

There is a unique world record named after Richard Harold Smith who first circumnavigated the whole world in the east to west direction with the help of Sikorsky S-76.

Richard Harold Smith is an Australian Aviator and Entrepreneur who was also selected as the Australian of the Year in 1986.

Richard Harold Smith
Richard Harold Smith, A Renowned Aviator

2. Specifications of Sikorsky S-76

Sikorsky S-76 is a powerful twin-engine helicopter and can accommodate 12-13 passengers easily. Sikorsky S-76 has a length of around 16 meters. with width and height being 3.06 meters and 4.43 meters respectively.

The diameter of the main rotor is around 13.42 meters. The maximum speed of Sikorsky S-76 is 155 Knots or 287 Km/hr.

3. Important Variants

  1. S-76A was the original production version, which is powered by 486KW twin Rolls Royce engines.
  2. S-76A Utility was the upgraded version of S-76 used as a utility helicopter with sliding doors.
  3. S-76 Mk II is upgraded to have more powerful engines than its base variant S-76A.
  4. S-76B variant is powered by two  Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-36A engines. A total of 101 S-76B helicopters were built.
  5. S-76C is powered by 539 KW  Turbomeca Arriel 1S1 engines. A total of 43 S-76C helicopters were built.
  6. S-76D is almost similar to S-76B in its engine configurations. It has improved noise signature and upgraded avionics.

The above variants are used for civil purposes only. For the military, there are other variants.

4. Countries Still Using S-76

The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter is used worldwide for different purposes including airlines, military, etc. As of 2021, it is in service in mainly Asian countries including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and, Thailand.

Apart from Asian countries, it is being used in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Argentina.

Other Accidents Involving Sikorsky S-76

Sikorsky S-76 is prone to failures. Five major accidents were reported which involved Sikorsky S-76. Each of them is briefly discussed below.

1. Bristow Helicopter Crash in 2002

Bristow Helicopters Limited is a British company that provides helicopter-related services. On 16th July 2002, a Sikorsky S-76A crashed in the North Sea while it was on a small flight. The cause of the crash was found to be the failure of the main rotor.

2. Copterline Flight 103 in 2005

Copterline was once Finland’s largest helicopter airline. On 10th August 2005, when the flight departed from Tallinn (Capital of Estonia) to Helsinki (Capital of Finland), it lost its steerability four minutes after taking off and fall in Tallinn Bay. Read more about the crash @Wikipedia.

3. Ornge Air Ambulance Crash in 2013

Ornge is a Canadian not-for-profit corporation that provides ambulance services to the Ontario province. It works under the Ministry of Health.

On 31st May 2013, a Sikorsky S-76A helicopter crashed in which 2 pilots were killed. The take-off took place at night which is believed to be one of the reasons for the crash. Read more about the Ornge Service here.

4. Svan Aviation Crash in 2017

A Sikorsky S76C++ crashed on 10th March 2017 which was en route to Turkey from Istanbul. Six minutes after the take-off, the helicopter hit the Endem TV tower in Istanbul. There were seven people on board. Misfortunately all of them died.

Endem TV tower, Istanbul
Endem TV Tower, Istanbul

Endem TV Tower was built between 1998 to 2008. The total height of the tower is 257 meters.

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