Kawhi Leonard says he used same helicopter pilot as Kobe Bryant: ‘He was one of the best’
(CNN) -- Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said he'd used the same helicopter pilot who was at the controls of the helicopter that crashed last Sunday, killing basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others.
Leonard talked with Bryant about commuting by helicopter after moving to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers last year, Leonard told reporters Wednesday. When he used the helicopter he’d ask for the pilot, Ara Zobayan, he said.
“I’ve flown with him a lot,” Leonard said, according to video of the interaction shared by Los Angeles Times reporter Andrew Greif. “Great guy, super nice. He was one of the best pilots. That’s the guy who you ask for to fly you from city to city.”
“It’s just surreal still for me,” Leonard said. “You know, he’ll drop me off and say he’s about to pick up Kobe. ... Or he’ll just be like, ‘I just dropped Kobe off and he said hello,’ you know, vice versa.”
"He's a good dude," Leonard said of Zobayan. "And you know, I'm sorry for everybody."
Asked if he was given pause by Sunday’s crash, Leonard appeared to indicate it was too early to make a decision on whether he would continue to use a helicopter.
“I mean, the things that you hear -- you don’t know what’s real yet,” he said. “I can’t really speak on it. I don’t know. I don’t know yet.”
Zobayan was an instrument-certified pilot who earned his commercial pilot’s license in 2007, per the FAA’s pilot certification database.
Records also show he was a certified flight instructor for instrument instruction for helicopter pilots, and he was up to date on FAA-required annual medical exams.
Conditions were foggy on Sunday, and as a result, the helicopter was operating under “special visual flight rules” (SVFR), according to an air traffic control conversation with the pilot, captured by website LiveATC.net.
An SFVR clearance allows a pilot to fly in weather conditions worse than those allowed for regular visual flight rules.
The Burbank Airport control tower allowed the helicopter to proceed using the special clearance, the audio reveals.
Leonard is reportedly not the only celebrity who used the pilot. According to reports earlier this week, Kylie Jenner said on Instagram that she had flown with Zobayan as well.
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