CALIFORNIA — Rep. Brad Sherman, who represents Sherman Oaks, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California introduced on June 11 the Helicopter Safety Act of 2020. 

The bill, “to require certain helicopters to be equipped with safety technologies,” was first announced by Sherman on Jan. 30, in the wake of the helicopter accident that claimed the lives of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven other individuals on Jan. 26.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) report of the accident determined the helicopter was flying in foggy weather with “low clouds.” 

The report also highlights the helicopter was not equipped with neither terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) nor cockpit voice and data recorders — known commonly as black boxes. 

In 2004, a Sikorsky S-76A model helicopter, similar to the Sikorsky S-76B that killed nine people this year, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico under similar circumstances. In that same year the NTSB recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that all commercial helicopters be equipped with TAWS. 

In 2006, the NTSB further recommended that Cockpit Voice Recorders and Flight Data Recorders be installed, along with TAWS, in all helicopters “configured with six or more passenger seats.”

“The Helicopter Safety Act of 2020 will finally direct the FAA to require these safety features for passenger helicopters in order to avoid tragedies,” Congressman Sherman said in a press release.

In a letter sent in February to the FAA, Senator Feinstein asked the the organization to “commence a rule making process to require all commercial helicopters operating in the U.S. to have terrain awareness and warning systems.”

Both Sherman and Feisntein point out the these equipments can range in cost between $25,000 to $40,000 per aircraft. 

“If that helicopter had terrain awareness equipment, the tragedy may have been averted,” Feinstein said. “This commonsense bill will save lives, and Congress should act to pass it immediately.”