PERRY, Ga. — Alex Zoltak is not a helicopter pilot, but he does spend a lot of time in the air.
"I'm just your typical private pilot," he said.
He also owns Perry Air, a flight school for fixed wing planes.
He says even though he's on the opposite side of the country, news of Sunday's California helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and 8 others hit him hard.
"It's sad, especially, obviously, when there's children involved," he said.
Dispatch audio captured some of the final moments of the flight.
"Two echo X-ray, you're still too low-level for flight following at this time," a dispatcher said to the helicopter's pilot.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are still trying to determine the cause of the crash.
"There was one initial impact. Part of the debris was down the hill," said Jennifer Homendy with the NTSB. "Another part of the debris was over the hill, and then the main rotor was about 100 feet beyond that."
Small helicopters and airplanes are obviously different.
Certified fixed wing flight instructor Joseph Ward says they share many of the same challenges, from mechanical problem to weather that reduces visibility.
"You're going to have the same risks and challenges in a helicopter and an aircraft," said Ward. "Part of any good flight instructor's job is to teach in an emergency situation how to handle those emergencies."
He went on, "You could have engine failure in a small airplane, you could have an engine failure in a helicopter," said Ward. "So the risks are the same, it's just how you work with those."
Neither Ward nor anybody else wants to speculate on the cause of a crash thousands of miles away, especially before investigators finish their work.
However, Ward was specific on one thing: even though the crashes get outsize attention, he argues they make up only a tiny percentage of all flights taken.
"I think air travel is the safest mode of transportation," he said.
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