Around 9:42 a.m. PT (5:45 pm in Ghana) Hours before their fatal helicopter crash, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were taking communion before an early-morning church service.Minutes before the crash, their pilot was trying to get special permission to fly though foggy conditions.Seconds before the crash that killed all nine people on board, the pilot told air traffic control he was trying to avoid a cloud layer. It was the last time anyone on the ground heard from him.While federal investigators try to determine what caused the crash, excerpts of air traffic control recordings help build a timeline of what happened in the flight’s final moments. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter takes off from Orange County, California, according to the flight tracking site FlightRadar24.com.The helicopter was headed from the southern Los Angeles area to the northern Los Angeles suburbs.Bryant was supposed to coach a youth basketball team, the Lady Mambas, at their 12 p.m. game in Thousand Oaks, California. Gianna, 13, was on that team. Two other girls in the helicopter, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, were also on board. Around 9:21 a.m. PT (5:21 pm in Ghana) Around 9:24 a.m. PT (5:24 pm in Ghana)An air traffic controller says “it’s gonna be a little bit” before the pilot can continue.“OK, we’ll continue holding,” Zobayan replies.A National Transportation Safety Board member later said there was a delay because of traffic.Around 9:33 a.m. PT (5:33 pm in Ghana) Source: CNN 9:06 a.m. PT Sunday (5:06 pm in Ghana) The helicopter heads north. Air traffic control tells the pilot to “follow the 5 Freeway” and maintain SVFR conditions.The pilot confirms he heard the instructions: “Maintain special VFR at or below 2500, I-5 northbound.”Later, the Burbank air traffic controller tells the pilot to switch to Van Nuys air traffic control.The pilot contacts the Van Nuys tower: “Van Nuys, Helicopter 2EX with you for the special VFR transition. We are currently at 1400.”The controller tells the pilot: “Wind calm, visibility 2 1/2 , ceiling 1100 overcast, Van Nuys altimeters 30.16. Cleared into Van Nuys Class D northeast of Van Nuys.”At one point, the pilot requested flight following, which is radar assistance for a flight that helps the pilot avoid traffic, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said.But air traffic control said the helicopter was too low to provide flight following assistance, Homendy said.The pilot told air traffic control he was going to climb higher to avoid a cloud layer. It was his last transmission. An air traffic controller tries to contact the pilot, but gets no response.“72EX, you’re following a 1200 code. So you’re requesting flight following?” the controller asks.“Say intentions,” the controller adds. “You’re still too low level for flight following at this time.” 9:45 a.m. PT (5:45 pm in Ghana)The helicopter falls off the radar, the NTSB said.9:47 a.m. PT (5:47 pm in Ghana)The first 911 call comes in about the crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.12 p.m. PT (8:00 pm in Ghana)The Lady Mambas’ basketball game is scheduled to begin at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks. The helicopter starts circling over Glendale, California, close to the city of Burbank.“Helicopter 2EX, hold outside Burbank Class C airspace. I have an aircraft going around,” an air traffic controller says.“2EX, holding,” the pilot replies.Air traffic control audio indicates the pilot, Ara Zobayan, had requested SVFR clearance, or special visual flight rules clearance.SVFR clearance allows a pilot to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for regular visual flight rules. Sunday morning, the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters because of low visibility from fog.Pilots sometimes request SVFR clearance mid-flight if weather conditions suddenly change. Those granted permission typically keep closer contact with air traffic control. Tags: GiannaHelicopter crashKobe Bryant
A group of 798 pipeliners welds a section of the Trans Alaska Pipeline. (Photo courtesy of Diane Schenker)Robert Grove had spent three years living in a cabin he built in Talkeetna when he decided to return to Fairbanks in 1976 to find work as a laborer on the trans-Alaska Pipeline.When Grove went to the labor union hall he found a job performing hydrotests, a process that flushed water through 25-mile stretches of the pipeline at extremely high pressure. It was a coveted job on the pipeline because it required a lot of hours on the clock. Grove is now retired and living in Ester.Listen nowGROVE: The first week I went to work was the only week in two and a half years that I worked less than eighty hours a week. Many times we would work twenty-four hours a day. I was on a labor crew along with a 798 pipeline crew. Those guys were all out of Tulsa. All of the laborers were all from Alaska. They respected us Alaskans because they all knew we hunted, and we were pretty crazy. These guys all had guns on the pipeline — which was amongst other things that were illegal — and they just thought we did, so they didn’t mess around with us.You wouldn’t believe the stuff that would come out of that pipe. Kind of always wondered where it comes from. I mean chairs, booze, clothes — all kinds of stuff.One night in October, the pipe, it dropped from 45 degrees to twenty below when they had about twenty miles of pipe full of water. Needless to say everybody freaked out. Frank P. Moolin himself, who was the head of the whole pipeline, landed in a helicopter that morning. And everybody was scheduled to leave the next day — that was supposed to be the last day for the season. And guys were going all over the world to get married, to move on with their lives and what not. He knew that, and he basically said to our crew that, “If you stay here we’re going to be here another month, and we have to wait for a bunch of boilers to be trucked up from the oil fields in Alberta. And we just need to heat up the water that we’re pulling out of the Jim river, two degrees.”One of the conditions that Frank Moolin said was, “If you stay here and work another month I will fly you to anywhere in the country that you want to go, and I’ll fly you back and make sure that you’re the first one called out of the haul in the spring.”And he definitely lived up to his word. I was down in Guatemala and Mexico and got a telegram. I had a message at the Mexican embassy in Mexico City. And I went there and I had tickets to fly back to Fairbanks.This story is part of Midnight Oil, a new podcast from Alaska’s Energy Desk. To hear more you can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.