Police, firefighters, news channels and tourists: helicopters travel nonstop through the sky of Los Angeles, but only a small elite can afford to use them daily … among them was Kobe Bryant.

The expensive, but very fast means of transport, is an option reserved for a handful of businessmen and celebrities, including basketball legend, who used it to avoid the horrible transit of the Californian metropolis.

“Rent a machine like that [Bryant's Sikorsky S-76] It costs about $ 4,000 an hour, the pilot earns at least $ 100,000 a year, ”Philippe Lesourd, a helicopter pilot and instructor who has flown in this state for 29 years, told AFP.

"It is not available to anyone."

In addition to Bryant, other celebrities regularly use this means of transportation, such as Kardashian familyadded Lesourd, as well as entrepreneurs who prefer this option “about five or six times faster than going through the street with traffic".

Bryant started using private helicopters around 2006.

After leaving her daughters at school by car in the morning, it flew about 65 km north to the Lakers Stadium in downtown Los Angeles to train and returned to Newport Beach in time to pick them up.

The trip lasted alone 15 minutes by helicopter, compared to the two hours it took by car during peak hours.

After retiring in 2016, the basketball titan, with a fortune valued at 600 million dollarsHe continued renting helicopters and pilots for his trips.

He was in his regular ship on Sunday morning when he crashed on a hill near Los Angeles.

Eight other people died, including her 13-year-old daughter, whom Kobe accompanied a basketball game in which she was supposed to play.


The causes of the disaster were not yet determined, but the city was that day covered by a thick fog.

“It should have been said‘ Let's go in the car ’, or stopped somewhere and wait a couple of hours for the fog to dissipate,” said Lesourd, who believes the most likely explanation is for the pilot to suffer a “spatial disorientation”By losing visual ground when entering the clouds.

"A helicopter is unstable, it's not like a car or a plane. You constantly have to actively control your altitude, ”he said. "When you are in the clouds, your brain does not recognize what is above and what is below."

Bryant's pilot was certainly very experienced, because helicopters carrying individual passengers "on demand" require strict permits, such as those from airlines, to operate.

These "air taxi" pilots – from which a minority flies helicopters – have to undergo regular training and drug detection controls, Lesourd added.

California is the US state with the highest number of helicopter accidents, with 177 registered between 2007 and 2016, according to official statistics.

Helicopters were on average safer than airplanes in the United States, with a death rate of 0.82 per 100,000 flight hours, including 55 deaths in 24 accidents last year.

But according to figures from an American helicopter safety group, private flights have the worst performance of any sector.

In the last decade, they accounted for only 3% of total flight hours, but 26% of fatal accidents.


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