Transportation Policy

We've Entered the Sixth Stage of Grief Over Kobe Bryant's Death: Legislation

Rep. Brad Sherman (D–Calif) has introduced a bill to mandate ground collision detection systems on all helicopters.

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We have entered the sixth stage of grief following the tragic deaths of basketball star Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in a Sunday helicopter crash: legislation.

On Thursday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D–Calif.) introduced the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act, which would mandate that all helicopters come installed with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS). This technology warns pilots if they are descending too quickly or flying to close to the ground or other obstacles.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the helicopter that Bryant and his fellow passengers were on did not have such a system on board.

Ever since a 2004 helicopter crash, the NTSB—which investigations transportation accidents and recommends safety improvements to regulators—has pressured the Federal Aviation Administration to require helicopters carrying six or more people to come equipped with TAWS. So far, the agency has only required it for air ambulances.

"Had this system been on the helicopter, it is likely the tragic crash could have been avoided," claims a press release put out by Sherman's office.

That statement is premature, given what we know about Sunday's accident.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the helicopter carrying Bryant and his fellow passengers had been flying over hilly terrain in fog. Its pilot ascended rapidly to get out of a cloud bank, then started making a left turn before losing contact with air traffic control. The helicopter reportedly descended 2,000 feet before crashing at a high speed into a hillside.

So far, the NTSB has declined to say whether TAWS would have prevented Sunday's crash. Lead investigator Bill English told Fox News that it's not clear if "TAWS and this scenario are related to each other."

One former NTSB air crash investigator, Gregory Feith, told The New York Times that TAWS might have been useful in avoiding Sunday's crash, but that the system could also have produced a lot of false warnings a pilot may have ignored.

"With what the pilot was doing with Kobe Bryant, it would be beneficial, but when you're following a highway with hills nearby, you get false warnings. And with false warnings, you tend to tune them out," Feith said.

Helicopter pilot Brian Alexander similarly told Fox News that if the crash were the result of deteriorating weather conditions and the pilot's own disorientation, having TAWS installed wouldn't have helped much.

At a minimum, lawmakers should wait to learn whether TAWS would have prevented Sunday's crash before they use said crash to justify mandating the technology.

Legislators and safety regulators should also weigh the potential safety benefits of installing TAWS on all helicopters against the costs of doing so, particularly if those costs crowd out other, more impactful safety improvements.

Not doing that crucial cost-benefit analysis often results in mandates for flashy new technology that would have prevented the most recent high-profile incident, while neglecting mundane but more effective safety measures.

A good example is the federal government's push to get rail carriers to adopt positive train control (PTC)—a technology that prevents derailments by speeding trains—in the wake of a January 2018 derailment in Washington state that killed three people. The deaths from these derailments are a tiny fraction of rail deaths, the vast majority of which happen when trains collide with trespassers or with vehicles at highway crossings. Money spent on PTC could go instead to fencing, double-arm crossing guards at highway-rail intersections, and other improvements that actually address the most frequent rail deaths.

It's a mistake to impose rush such a mandate into place without considering the trade-offs, whether you're talking about trains or helicopters.

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  1. PTC requires all kinds of infrastructure. I don’t understand why a simple computer connected to a GPS can’t control a trains speed.

    1. Because it’ll make you turn left at an intersection that doesn’t exist.

      1. You’ll be cruising along at 75, on a nice long straight stretch of track, and suddenly the GPS will spaz out and think you’re going 13 different directions in 4 seconds and tries to turn your train into a pretzel compensating for that.

    2. Remember the details of that train crash in Dupont? I’ve been there and know the site well. That engineer had FAILED to see the multiple speed settings posted on the roadbed. If a guy driving a truck on the highway continues cruising at 70 mph as the road narrows and enters a turn, when the speed limits post lower maximum speeds, the rediced limits are NOT heeded by the driver, he enters the turn too hot and rolls his rig, whatchya gonna do, mandate new tpys to drive the truck FOR him? After all his training HE blows it and you want to spend $Bns to relieve him of his respponsibility as a driver when the problem is NOT lack of technology but a distracted inattentive lazy driver? Come ON man. government can’t fix everything.

      That train hit the turn at 80 mph, max speed at the entrance to that turn is posted at 35 mph. a truck driver doing 80 in a 35 would get a Reckless Driving cite, a felony, no more big rigs for him. What happened to this engineer? As far as I’ve been able to learn, NOTHING, maybe a small reprimand slap on the wrist with a Q tip. NO machine can fix lzy OR stupid. And, as Teslas have been reliably proving of late, technology can be a help but NEVER the final word in any situation.

      Stupid nannie gummit poohpahs wanna manage every detail of our lives. Enough!!!

  2. Even dead Kobe Bryant is a media whore.

    1. Jesus Christ, (if he hasn’t been replaced by Bryant already in L.A.) this.

      He was a really good basketball player, who happened to play in Los Angeles. He didn’t cure cancer, end war in the MidEast, build rockets to take humanity to the stars: he was an entertainer. Who hadn’t entertained in his profession for nearly four years.

      He didn’t die flying flood relief supplies to another country. He died because he had an idiot pilot who scud ran in really shitty weather. Probably because his client was in his ear about being late to whatever event Bryant was taking everyone to.

      Also, a ground proximity warning sensor? In a helicopter? The rep knows helicopters fly near the ground, a lot, right? It’s kind of why you have one, because it can fly into a lot of places an airplane can’t.

      You can’t legislate away idiocy in charter aviation.

    2. To be fair, it’s not like he had a say in the matter.

  3. “It’s a mistake to impose rush such a mandate into place without considering the trade-offs, whether you’re talking about trains or helicopters.”

    Yes, but it seems to be one of only handful of things at which the government is actually good.

    1. Yes, but it seems to be one of only handful of things at which the government is actually good.

      Yes, but it seems to be one of only handful of things at which the government is actually BAAADD

      there took care of that little glitch for ya. Your’e welcome.

      GOvernment nannieing is BAD. End of sentence.

    2. My question is a lot of tourist helicopters have crashed killing many average citizens in the last year and no legislation for safety devices were past or even considered. Now one sport celebrity dies in a crash and we must rush legislation. Why? What is the difference?

      1. Because it’s an election year?

      2. He’s Black, and Democrats are desperate to convince Black people to vote?

      3. Perhaps we should prohibit pro athletes from using helicopters. Fewer people damaged.

      4. Because of the “grieving”, dude. Duh!

        Haha.

  4. On Thursday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D–Calif.) introduced the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act…

    Shame and reelection are incompatible.

    1. Shame and any sales career are incompatible.

      1. Depends on what you’re selling.

  5. I am shocked that a politician found a Something That Must Be Done in response to this.

  6. Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act

    Marginally better than the Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and Eight Other Randos Act.

    1. Tish, they are only commoners.

  7. Losing the 7th best shooting guard of all time is a serious tragedy.

    1. Planes that are equipped with terrain warning avionics fly into mountains and terrain in poor visibility on a relatively common basis. Politicians are fucking idiots.

    2. 7th?
      Hmm.
      Would be interesting to see your list.
      I was never a big Kobe fan, but I think he’s better than 7th best 2 guard.
      Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson… then?

      1. “I was never a big Kobe fan, but I think he’s better than 7th best 2 guard.
        Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson… then?”

        Really depends on what you call a 2 guard, and how you determine ‘best.’ I always thought of Oscar as a point guard, anyway.

        Do it by Win Shares, and it’s Michael, a bunch of points like Stockton, Oscar, and Chris Paul, and then Reggie Miller of all people. Then Kobe. Ray Allen, Clyde, Harden, and Vince Carter after that. You want to put Kobe ahead of Miller, I won’t stop you.

        I think Harden will eventually eclipse Kobe, but it’ll take a few more years. And some rings.

  8. did anyone write a “what a fucking stupid way to die and take people with you” article yet?

    1. “Did anyone write a “what a fucking stupid way to die and take people with you” article yet?”

      Not at Reason. Probably not at flying periodicals or blogs either, unless you read the comments. It was a remarkably stupid way to kill 9 people and wad up a perfectly good 15 million dollar helicopter.

      1. heartbreak for the kids.

      2. Was it an Island Hoppers helicopter?

        1. T.C. and Rick hardest hit.

  9. Rep. Brad Sherman (D–Calif) has introduced a bill to mandate ground collision detection systems on all helicopters.

    It’ a recording that screams ‘WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

    1. If you collide with the ground, a detection system isn’t going to help you.

      1. Often when an aircraft hits the ground, it’s because the pilot has become confused about which way is down. In those situations, screaming at him to PULL UP doesn’t help.

      2. “Yup, that was the ground all right!”

  10. New regulations are needed? I don’t get it. What makes politicians think they know more about stuff than those in the business? It’s not like helicopter builders are blithering idiots, watching customers crash into the ground over and over again with ne’er a though as to how to keep that from happening. It’s almost like a religion- if only we pass the right laws, bad things will stop happening. Either that, or it’s just grandstanding on somebody’s grave. Hard to tell which it is, maybe it’s both.

  11. This is the same process that mandated Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) be installed in all aircraft…in that case, when Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana died in Alaska, campaigning for Nick Begich. Never mind that the existing ELT’s were horrible devices that triggered accidentally FAR, far more than they actually helped locate a crash…

    Perhaps a rule requiring commercial (Part 135 and 121) helicopter flights be made under IFR rules would be more productive?

    1. Going to be challenging, considering a lot of the destinations you want to visit in a helicopter don’t have ILS.

      It does need to be easier, and not career-crushing like it is now, for a VFR/SVFR charter helicopter pilot to request a very temporary inadvertent IFR clearance and flight plan. The IFR system wasn’t really designed for helicopters admittedly. Nor GPS and ADS-B.

  12. For fuck’s sake. EGPWS or TAWS wouldn’t have done a damned thing to prevent the pilot from spatial disorientation and the subsequent loss of control. This wasn’t a CFIT accident. Terrain warning systems are designed to prevent CFIT, not stop people from flying into conditions they’re not trained for or aren’t proficient enough to manage.

    1. It’s obvious to anyone that cares to actually grasp reality.

    2. the pilot was highly qualified and a helicopter flight instructor. he should have known better than to fly in dense fog, or at least do so at a safe altitude over the mountains. or there was an engine malfunction, as originally reported.

      1. It appears from transcripts of his interactions with air traffic control, that the SVFR he was flying under restricted him to a max altitude of 2500 feet. Going higher would have required switching to IFR (being above the clouds making ground references impossible) which, it is my understanding, he was trying to avoid because in that congested airspace it places you at the mercy of air traffic control and will take much longer to get where you want to go.

        But, on the plus side, it will get you where you want to go.

  13. Two weeks earlier Bryant took on Big Pharma and had the money to do it. Suddenly he dies. Ground observers indicate Aircraft problems, Experienced pro-pilot Pilot cant control airspeed. Fog and weather had nothing to do with it – sabotage took him out. The others were just collateral damage.
    What they needed was an AI upgrade that says your aircraft was tampered with and sabotaged – do not fly.

    1. Oh bullshit. Take it to the ‘Hillary had Ron Brown killed’ threads.

      Kobe Bryant died because his dickhead pilot inadvertently flew into IMC while scud running way too fast for conditions, got disoriented, and crammed his helicopter into a hillside at 170 miles per hour. Inadvertent entry into instrument meteorological conditions kills pilots every year. It’s one of the classic Deadly Sins of aviation.

      Though his pilot had an IFR cert for the bird, and the bird certainly had enough toys to fly in it, the company had a policy of no IFR operations. Especially with a single pilot. He had the cert, but I really doubt he was proficient in IFR flying, or inadvertent flight into IFR.

      1. no one would suspect the Clinton’s had Brown killed, if it weren’t for the long line of bodies all the way back to Little Rock.

    2. “…What they needed was an AI upgrade that says your aircraft was tampered with and sabotaged…”

      Were you the 3rd man on the grassy knoll?

  14. And we can put ejection seats in every passenger aircraft to ensue only the super wealthy can ever fly again…Sherman is beyond stupid…take a look at his background…same old same old..elitist who thinks the rest of us should obey him and his ilk like Schumer and Schiff…losers..

  15. Or they could have not flown in the fog like all the helicopters were told not to. Cheapest method yet

    1. Not only the cheapest method, but the most intelligent method yet too.

  16. First off Sherman you are a fucking tool. Just go away, no one needs you.

    Also this country has some fucked up priorities in so far as who is important and worth attention.

    Bryant was a ball player…nothing more, nothing less yet he is put on a pedestal. He didn’t cure cancer, create the first cellphone or lightbulb, well you get the picture. Those are the people that should be getting all the fanfare. Think about it.

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  18. > Its pilot ascended rapidly to get out of a cloud bank, then started making a left turn before losing contact with air traffic control. The helicopter reportedly descended 2,000 feet before crashing at a high speed into a hillside.

    This may be what other media voices are saying, but it doesn’t make aviation sense. If you inadvertently enter a cloud in hilly terrain with low ceilings, the LAST thing you would do is descend. IF the pilot had HTAWS (the helicopter version of TAWS) aboard providing an awareness of surrounding terrain he might have considered descending, but if–and only if–he first slowed down. This pilot was in a rapid descending turn with a relatively high forward speed.

    A blind 2000 FPM (feet/minute) descending turn at high speed into hilly terrain is indicative of loss of control.

    1. yeah, a lot of people blaming the pilot before the facts are in

    2. “A blind 2000 FPM (feet/minute) descending turn at high speed into hilly terrain is indicative of loss of control.”

      I’m guessing he either got behind the power curve and lost lift after that rapid ascent, or developed vertigo and wouldn’t obey his instruments.

      1. And even if there was a mechanical problem with the aircraft he was in a situation with effectively no margin for recovery.

        So yeah, no matter how you slice it, pilot error was a significant factor in the crash.

  19. Never waste an opportunity to pander to the voters

  20. You can’t legislate common sense.

  21. “WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING” at work here.

  22. Planes that are equipped with terrain warning avionics fly into mountains and terrain in poor visibility on a relatively common basis. Politicians are fucking idiots.

  23. Anybody else nearly roll the car the the first time you went to change lanes at 70MPH and that new ‘proximity sensor’ screamed at you that there was a car in that lane, and you ‘corrected’ quite rapidly?
    Only to find it was a false positive; the car was a lane farther off to the right.
    It is possible to disconnect that crap if you find the right tech; false positives can be dangerous.

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  25. I saw 2 witnesses interviewed who said they heard the helicopter sputtering and “in distress” before the crash. Fog or no fog, it sounds like they had engine trouble. GBWA

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  27. That’s ok, I’m sure Kobe will vote (D) forever! What greater tribute than that is even possible?

  28. He shoulda’ used a Tesla on Autopilot!

  29. The best way government could help to prevent tragedies like this is to widen the 101 freeway so celebrities don’t need to take a helicopter to go 90 miles.

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  32. My belief: Kobe. His death must cause enough faithfulness. The fall of a superstar. https://www.wallpaperkin.com/wvi/bohJm_joueurs-kobe-bryant-3wallpapers/

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