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Washington February 9, 2021 – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) gave an update on its investigation into the 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif., that killed nine passengers including Kobe and Gianna Bryant:

            “The NTSB’s findings reiterate the need to update existing helicopter safety regulations in order to keep passengers safe,” Senator Feinstein said. “We still don’t know the exact cause of the crash partly due to the fact that the helicopter wasn’t equipped with a flight recorder, something the NTSB has recommended be required on all helicopters for nearly a quarter century.

            “We must work to prevent tragic accidents like the 2020 crash that killed that killed nine passengers including Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and I believe requiring flight recorders and terrain awareness systems will make flights like these safer. The NTSB stood by its longstanding recommendations today and I urge the Senate to hold hearings on and mark up my bill making this safety equipment mandatory before more lives are lost.”

            Senator Feinstein, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act in January. The bill requires flight recorders – also known as “black boxes” – and terrain awareness and warning systems on all helicopters that carry six or more passengers.

            Despite a 2006 NTSB recommendation that terrain awareness equipment be mandatory on all helicopters, FAA currently only requires air ambulances to carry it. The NTSB has also recommended that FAA require flight recorders on all helicopters since 1999.

Background:

  • On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying nine passengers crashed in Calabasas, Calif., killing everyone on board. A preliminary report and subsequent investigation from the NTSB found that the helicopter was flying in foggy weather and was not equipped with terrain awareness technology.
  • Since 2006, the NTSB has recommended that all helicopters be equipped with terrain awareness technology, but so far the FAA has only applied this requirement to air ambulances. The bill would direct the FAA to require terrain awareness technology on all helicopters carrying six or more passengers.
  • Last year, Feinstein asked the FAA to expand current regulations on terrain awareness equipment to include all helicopters with six or more passengers. FAA is still evaluating the NTSB recommendation, 15 years after it was initially made.