L.A. Daily News, 01/30/2020
San Fernando Valley Rep. Brad Sherman said Thursday he will introduce a bill directing the Federal Aviation Administration to outfit all helicopters with a terrain-safety system that investigators say was absent from the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas Sunday, killing all nine people on board including Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
The bill, dubbed the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act, would require the FAA to place a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, or TAWS, in every operational helicopter in U.S. skies.
At a news conference Tuesday, National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said that TAWS “could have helped to provide information to the pilot on what terrain the pilot was flying in.”
Other investigators cautioned against drawing conclusions on the possible role of a warning system this early in the investigation.
Terrain awareness systems, which cost between $25,000 and $40,000 per helicopter, cannot prevent a crash on their own. But they provide, especially in low visibility situations, a detailed image of surrounding terrain and trigger auditory and visual warnings.
The National Safety Transportation Board, which is conducting the investigation into Sunday’s crash, made a 2004 recommendation to outfit all helicopters with TAWS in the wake of a helicopter crash that killed ten people in the Gulf of Mexico.
The FAA required air ambulance helicopters to install TAWS in 2014, but the mandate did not apply to commercial flights, like Bryant’s. The NTSB closed its recommendation but said it considered the FAA respon
The NTSB had also recommended that all transport helicopters built before October 1991 install a cockpit voice or image recorder. The Sikorski S-76B that crashed Sunday had neither, but would have qualified as it received an airworthiness certificate in May 1991, show FAA records.
In addition to the TAWS outfitting directive, Sherman’s bill would establish a helicopter safety commission to report to Congress on on best practices for helicopters flying in low visibility situations.
The Sherman Oaks representative said that he expects the act to constitute an upward climb, based on his experiences working with the FAA on local aircraft noise concerns. He is gathering co-signers and aims to formally introduce the legislation by the end of February.
“We were all heartbroken to see this with Kobe Brant and his daughter, and it was poignant to me in that Calabasas is part of the Valley,” said Rep. Sherman. “We’ll never know, and I’m not a helicopter pilot, but I think it would have saved Kobe and all nine people and I know it will save others.”
Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Ian Gregor said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.