Ara Zobayan was identified as the pilot of the helicopter crash that killed off Kobe Bryant. He also violated weather-related flight rules in 2015, according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On January 26, NBA legend Bryant, Zobayan, and 7 other people died when the helicopter crashed in California.
According to FAA's records, Zobayan was flying an AS350 helicopter on May 11, 2015, when he violated federal flight rules governing the airspace around Los Angeles International Airport against the orders of air traffic control.
The pilot was then denied a clearance to fly an AS350 into the airspace because of reduced visibility and weather conditions.
"Had Mr. Zobayan properly planned and reviewed current weather at LAX, he would have been able to anticipate the required action to transit ... resulting in proper coordination," according to a 2015 Los Angeles Times report.
The records were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act report that Zobayan was counseled by an FAA investigator when he broke the federal flight rules.
According to the report, "There are no indications that this is a repeated incident and there are no signs that this incident is a trend with Mr. Zobayan."
It does not indicate whether Zobayan was carrying any passengers at the time.
Zobayan's helicopter dived into a hillside northwest of Los Angeles at high speed. He tried to climb above a cloud layer when the aircraft banked left and plunged 1,200 feet at high speed.
The crash remains under investigation but rumor has it that he became disoriented in the foggy weather.
In 2015, Zobayan was piloting for Island Express Helicopters, the same charter company where he worked for years leading up to last month's crash.
Zobayan contacted a tower at LAX to gain clearance to fly through the airspace, but the tower told him that the airfield was reporting less than three miles of visibility and had a cloud ceiling at least 1,000 feet above the ground.
The pilot was asked whether he could maintain VFR conditions. Zobayan sought permission to fly by sight in less-than-optimal visibility.
Zobayan admitted his mistake, according to records, then underwent counseling on operating in Class B airspace, special VFR weather minimums, proper planning, reviewing weather, and anticipating required action.
An FAA record said, "Proper coordination should have included an earlier initiation of communication to allow time for receiving a clearance." The Los Angeles Times was the first to report on the 2015 incident.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the two engines of the helicopter in hazy, cloudy weather that collided with a California hillside last month showed no evidence of a catastrophic internal failure.
Fortunately, pilot Shawn Coyle said the violation was considered minor and he does not know a pilot who hasn't violated a rule.
Coyle said, "If that's the only violation he's ever had then I would say he's pretty safe."