Jan 26, 2020; Ardmore, Pennsylvania, USA; Mourners leave a memorial outside Lower Merion High School after the sudden passing of NBA Kobe Bryant. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna have understandably led the headlines from Sunday’s devastating helicopter crash, it is important to keep in mind that seven other people also lost their lives in the tragedy. Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the aircraft, was among them.

Zobayan has been identified as the man who was flying the helicopter at the time it crashed in hilly terrain in Calabasas. In addition to being a pilot, Zobayan was also a flight instructor. Upon learning of his death, many friends and former students of Zobayan’s took to social media to share positive memories of the 50-year-old. Darren Kemp, one of Zobayan’s former students, told the Los Angeles Times that Bryant considered Zobayan his most trusted pilot.

“He doesn’t let anyone else fly him around but Ara,” Kemp said.

Kemp said Zobayan had an impact on in his personal life as well as with his flying, as Zobayan also helped Kemp through his divorce and convinced him not to give up on flight school.

Sunday’s crash is still under investigation, but it has been confirmed that Zobayan was flying under special VFR, or special visual flight rules. Those rules allow helicopters to fly in conditions where visibility is an issue, which appears to have been the case with the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas. KTLA’s Christina Pascucci, who is also a licensed pilot, says public records show Zobayan was rated to fly in those types of conditions.

Zobayan also appeared on an episode of “Celebrity Wife Swap” back in 2013. Fellow pilot Lorenzo Lamas teased the episode on Facebook at the time by telling people to “Tune in to ABC this Sunday 8pm to see Ara and me fly Andy Dick’s baby momma around on ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ lol.” Lamas was friends with Zobayan, and Lamas was included in a photo that accompanied a Facebook tribute written by Jared Joachim, another pilot and friend of Zobayan’s.

“Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot and truly a great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are,” Joachim wrote. “Ara was a man that always remained cool, calm and collected. As more people that knew Ara open up about him, you’ll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving. He was always good for a laugh.”

Bryant traveled by helicopter frequently, and the explanation he gave for doing so is now gut-wrenching. If Zobayan was the pilot Kobe trusted to fly him and his loved ones around, you can bet there was a good reason for it.

This article first appeared on Larry Brown Sports and was syndicated with permission.


  COMMENTS

The Morning Bark Newsletter. Emailed daily.

You'll receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams.

Emailed daily. Always FREE!

MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Can you name every player to win a championship with Kobe Bryant?
SCORE:
0/54
TIME:
10:00
2010 - F/C
Pau Gasol
2010 - F
Metta World Peace
2010 - G
Derek Fisher
2010 - F
Lamar Odom
2010 - C
Andrew Bynum
2010 - G
Shannon Brown
2010 - G
Jordan Farmar
2010 - G
Sasha Vujacic
2010 - F
Luke Walton
2010 - C
D.J. Mbenga
2010 - F/C
Josh Powell
2009 - F/C
Pau Gasol
2009 - F
Lamar Odom
2009 - G/F
Trevor Ariza
2009 - G
Derek Fisher
2009 - C
Andrew Bynum
2009 - F
Luke Walton
2009 - G
Jordan Farmar
2009 - G
Shannon Brown
2009 - C
D.J. Mbenga
2009 - G
Sasha Vujacic
2002 - C
Shaquille O'Neal
2002 - G
Derek Fisher
2002 - F
Rick Fox
2002 - F
Robert Horry
2002 - F
Devean George
2002 - G
Brian Shaw
2002 - F/C
Samaki Walker
2002 - G
Lindsey Hunter
2002 - F/C
Stanislav Medvedenko
2002 - G
Mitch Richmond
2002 - F/C
Mark Madsen
2001 - C
Shaquille O'Neal
2001 - G
Derek Fisher
2001 - F
Rick Fox
2001 - F
Robert Horry
2001 - F
Horace Grant
2001 - G
Tyronn Lue
2001 - G
Brian Shaw
2001 - G
Ron Harper
2001 - F/C
Mark Madsen
2001 - G
Isaiah Rider
2001 - G
Mike Penberthy
2000 - C
Shaquille O'Neal
2000 - F
Glen Rice
2000 - G
Ron Harper
2000 - F
Robert Horry
2000 - F
Rick Fox
2000 - G
Derek Fisher
2000 - F/C
A.C. Green
2000 - G
Brian Shaw
2000 - C
Travis Knight
2000 - F/C
John Salley
2000 - F
Devean George

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!