January 30, 2020 | 8:09am
The manufacturer of the helicopter on which Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others lost their lives in a crash is pushing customers of the model to add a warning system that the doomed aircraft lacked, according to a report.
The ill-fated Sikorsky S-76B wasn’t equipped with the Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, which could have provided an audible warning to the pilot if the chopper was in danger of hitting the ground.
It is required in medical helicopters but not in commercial ones like the one used by Bryant.
Sources familiar with Sikorsky told TMZ that the company has been reaching out to customers of S-76 models not carrying the safety system and urging them to get them installed.
The company told the news outlet that TAWS and a black box have been standard features since the introduction of the S-76D in 2012. The helicopter involved in Sunday’s crash was built in 1991.
In 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended installing the system on all turbine-powered choppers with six or more passenger seats after a similar aircraft — a Sikorsky S-76A carrying workers to an offshore drilling ship — crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, killing all 10 people aboard.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration questioned the value of such technology on helicopters, which tend to fly close to buildings and the ground and could trigger too many alarms.Investigators examine the wreckage from Sunday’s crash NTSB/JAMES ANDERSON HANDOUT/EPA-
The FAA eventually instituted the requirement 10 years later, but only for air ambulances and other medical helicopters. The NTSB objected to what it called the FAA’s “unacceptable response,” but dropped the matter.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot in Sunday’s crash, had been climbing out of the clouds when the chartered helicopter went into a sudden 1,200-foot descent before slamming into a fog-shrouded hillside, investigators have said.
Bill English, investigator in charge of the NTSB’s Major Investigations Division, said it was not clear yet whether “TAWS and this scenario are related to each other.”