To the west, a cold front was moving through Ventura County, said climatologist Bill Patzert, driving fog off the Pacific over the Santa Monica Mountains.
The conditions were bad enough that the Los Angeles Police Department's Air Support Division grounded its helicopters and didn't fly until later in the afternoon, department spokesman Josh Rubenstein said.
"The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying," Rubenstein said. The fog "was enough that we were not flying." LAPD's flight minimums are two miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling, he said. The L.A. County Sheriff's Department made a similar assessment about the fog and had no helicopters in the air Sunday morning "basically because of the weather," L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Zobayan circled for 12 minutes until his request was granted and he was routed to the north end of the valley, giving a wide berth to the airports.
To continue was a critical decision. He could have anticipated the risky weather ahead and landed at Burbank. But pilots can be reluctant to call off a flight, Deetz said, especially with a VIP client. He said he's done it -- called his passenger an Uber or, in Bryant's case, his private driver -- but it's not easy.
"Psychologically, that's the hardest part," Deetz said. "Biting the bullet and saying, 'The weather's crap, I have to turn back.' It's hard to accept the fact you can't get the job done."
Beker said decisions such as this are usually part of a "cascade of events" that lead to a crash.
Zobayan then traveled north toward Granada Hills, at one point advising that he was climbing "to avoid a cloud layer," according to Jennifer Homendy, the member of the National Transportation Safety Board leading the investigation.
Flight records show he climbed from about 800 feet to 1,400 feet.
At 9:39 a.m., Zobayan received approval to turn southwest to meet and follow the 101 Freeway to his destination, the normal route on the north side of the Santa Monicas. At 9:42, he was back on the familiar route, heading into the more rugged terrain around Calabasas.