The conditions that led to the Jan. 26 helicopter crash and death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other passengers are all too familiar to Bob Kellogg.
The one-time lieutenant and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Navy — and president of Queensbury, N.Y.-based Warren Tire Service Center Inc. — said flying in those conditions is more common than people think.
"It's like flying in milk," Mr. Kellogg said. "You can't see anything beyond the windshield. It's like driving a car in heavy fog — with a car, all you have is the contact with the ground. There are things you can do in aviation that make you perfectly safe to drive through those clouds."
As an accomplished military pilot — during his 10-year military career, he flew missions in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia — Mr. Kellogg said he and his fellow Naval pilots were trained as instrument flight rules (IFR) pilots, certified to use instrumentation in order to fly in any conditions.
Most missions, he said, included two pilots who were IFR certified.
In many instances, he said, civilians are trained only in visual flight rules (VFR). Pilots with only VFR certification can get into trouble when encountering the type of conditions that were present when the helicopter carrying Mr. Bryant crashed.
"When weather such as that is a factor, aviation is very unforgiving," Mr. Kellogg said. "And mistakes can compound the situation."
According to the New York Times, the pilot flying the helicopter carrying Mr. Bryant and the others did not have the legal authority to navigate with his instruments. The Times reported that the aircraft owner, Island Express Helicopters, had only VFR certification, meaning the pilot was required to fly only in conditions with sufficient visibility to navigate.
"Flying right into low-level clouds, it's a dangerous situation to get out of," Mr. Kellogg said. "If not you're trained properly or follow the right procedures, you can get into trouble."
Mr. Kellogg, who had 2,300 hours of helicopter experience and another 100 hours of airline experience as a pilot in the military, said he encountered that situation during his time in the service.
"In situations like that, we knew how to handle it," he said.
Mr. Kellogg served as a model manager in the military, helping to evaluate squadrons and ensure they met training requirements.
"What ends up happening is, you get to an unusual attitude and can't recover from it. The helicopter is designed to handle certain speeds and parameters. When you do steep turns and dives, the pilot fails to recognize those situations because he becomes disoriented."
Today, when he's not overseeing his 14-location (soon to be 15) dealership, Mr. Kellogg pilots a Robinson R44 helicopter that he co-owns with several others. He said he is cautious not to fly in poor conditions.
"Sometimes pilots push it more than they should, especially in bad weather," he said. "There was bad weather that day, and it is questionable they should have been flying."
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Talking with Mr. Kellogg presents the perfect opportunity to let you know Tire Business has opened the nomination process for the 2020 Tire Business Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award.
Mr. Kellogg — whose dealership is involved with as many as 10 charities in upstate New York — was last year's winner.
The award, in its 27th year, recognizes an independent tire dealer or retreader in North America, regardless of business size or sales volume, who during the past year has made significant contributions to the betterment of his or her community through charitable and/or public service work.
Nominees must have an ownership stake in the business. Self nominations are welcome. Nominators are encouraged to renominate candidates if they are not past winners.
To enter, go to our website, tirebusiness.com, click on "award" at the top navigation bar and complete the nomination form.
Nominations will be judged by an independent committee outside of the tire industry.
The winner will receive the Tire Dealer Humanitarian Award Medal and a $2,500 donation to the charity of his or her choice. The award will be presented prior to the SEMA Show on Nov. 2 in Las Vegas.
Last year, Mr. Kellogg donated his $2,500 to the Wait House, an emergency shelter and transitional living program for homeless youth in nearby Glens Falls, N.Y.
Entry deadline is July 31.