The pilot of the helicopter that crashed into a California hillside and killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six other passengers has been identified as Ara Zobayan.
However, according to his pilot friend Jared Joachim, the 50-year-old Huntington Beach native was "great" at flying and "always remained cool, calm and collected" in the air.
The grieving friend wrote in a Facebook post, "Ara was an incredible pilot, instructor pilot, charter pilot, and a truly great man. He was not your typical egotistical helicopter pilot like most of us honestly are."
He also added that Zobayan, as people knew him, "you'll only hear words like professional, calculated and loving."
Friends have identified the pilot as
Ara Zobayan. He taught aspiring heli pilots to fly and was very much loved in the aviation community. They wrote “rest easy as you take your final flight to heaven.”@KTLA #KobeBryant pic.twitter.com/8pQh9eNJTk — Christina Pascucci (@ChristinaKTLA) January 27, 2020
Joachim furthermore said that the loss is not only his, but a community as a whole.
"Ara impacted so many people and only in a positive way. I'm sorry that you never got to meet him. You would've loved him," Joachim added as he posted photos of himself and a few of their friends while celebrating a friend's birthday. It was not clear when the photos were taken.
"Whoever would've thought that would be our final beer together," he furthered.
A friend confirmed that the pilot was close to the Bryant family.
"Working for the aviation business has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing people and pilots. Ara was one of them. Always so nice, talkative, and especially attentive when it came to Kobe and his family," Twitter user @__bella113_ said.
Before the crash, the pilot and flight instructor had no accidents or flight incidents, according to the spokesperson of the Federal Aviation Administration, Ian Gregor.
Zobayan first received his pilot license with a helicopter rating in January 2001 and his commercial pilot license in December 2007.
He learned to fly at Group 3 Aviation, a private flight school in California.
Claudia Lowry, the president of the institution, said Zobayan came to the academy in 1998 and quickly became embedded in their community.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, "This is where Ara learned to fly. This is where Ara worked. We've known him since 1998. He's a dear friend and family."
After learning to fly, Zobayan worked at Group 3 as a flight instructor.
Darren Kemp, one of his students, told Los Angeles Times that "Bryant doesn't let anyone else fly him around but Ara."
Zobayan later worked at Island Express Holding Corporation as a pilot for a family-owned helicopter charter company that contracts with Catalina Island to do local tours. It was also listed as the owner of the vehicle that crashed last Sunday.
The helicopter that was used was a Sikorsky S-75B and was nearing 30 years old at the time of its crash.
Zobayan was also a licensed instrument pilot, which means he trained on the safety and navigational tools needed to fly under poor weather conditions.
According to reports, on the day of the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy was asked what he planned to do, but "there was no reply."
"Radar data indicates the helicopter climbed to 2,300 feet and then began a left descending turn. Last radar contact was around 9:45 AM and is consistent with the accident location," Hemendy said in a statement.