With the crash of Kobe Bryant's helicopter, it seems a lot of focus has been placed on the helicopter flying low in fog (under "special VFR"). However, I've seen several suggestions that the helicopter should not have been flying at all
Weather reports indicated that a low cloud cover was present on the day of the crash, further complicating flying. Bryant's pilot was operating the craft under a special clearance for poor weather conditions and reportedly had experience in such situations.
The pilot was IFR rated, but if the investigation proves pilot error it raises the question if helicopters should be more limited in fog. Wired makes it sound even more dire
Flying without sight of the ground or other landmarks can quickly become dangerous, Whitcomb says, because helicopters are not inherently stable. Just staying level and on course demands working four controls at once, using your hands and feet, and keeping track of how each input affects all the others. If you lose sight of where you are and you don’t use your instruments properly, you may not realize you’re turning, or dropping, or even upside down. “You’ll get disoriented within seconds,” Whitcomb says.
Navigating by instrument can also be mentally taxing, says Scott Shappell, who chairs the Department of Human Factors and Behavioral Neurobiology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He compares visual flight conditions to driving down a familiar highway. Flying by dashboard is more like driving through Rome for the first time—while working a stick shift. “It’s definitely more work,” Shappell says. “The risk goes up.”
Are helicopters really that much more impacted than airplanes by fog?