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Airing out the issue of news choppers

by LConners

KMOV.com

Posted on September 22, 2007 at 2:25 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 3:00 PM

An inventor is working on a warning system for helicopters ... which might avoid another tragedy like we saw in Phoenix last July.

Two news helicopters ( KNXV and KTVK) collided while following a car chase. All 4 on board the helicopters died. The investigation will come down to pilot error, but why? What exactly happened? There's no doubt that one or both pilots got distracted and were not doing the most important job: flying.

As a pilot ... I'm always open to anything to make flying safer. Maybe the inventor's warning system will help helicopter pilots, but July's collision is sparking a debate about using helicopters in news coverage.

Immediately, after the crash there were questions about the value of helicopters covering a car chase. In addition to the two news helicopters which crashed there were at least two other choppers in the air: another news helicopter and a law enforcement helicopter. All the time, the news choppers were manuvering for the best shots for their stations.

The crash sparked criticism from outside and from within news departments ... is the story worth the danger? The direct and clear answer is ... NO. No story is worth endangering news crews. Still, helicopters continue to be a viable means of covering some stories.

Today's news helicopters are designed to give stations a competitive edge: faster, live, up-close coverage of an event. News promotions emphasize those capabilities.

Over the years in this business, I've watched how helicopters have changed our coverage. The choppers have obviously added a new dimension, view and information to stories. This is all good for viewers.

Certainly, you can debate whether a car chase is worth any coverage, but when such a story is on the air ... viewers are watching. If you think not covering a car chase will keep tv helicopters from swarming in one place ... consider numerous other stories: a search for a lost child, a manhunt, a fire.

The news helicopter pilots in St. Louis (like Phoenix and the rest of the nation) are very good at what they do. They are professional and safe. Still accidents can happen.

The news stations are competitive, but one quick solution to reduce the number of blades spinning in confined areas is ... "pool coverage".

In other words, the first news helicopter on the scene .. would provide tv shots ... for all the stations.

If "pool coverage" had been used in Phoenix ... there would have been at least 3 fewer helicopters in the air ... and greatly reduced the chances of that tragedy.

...

WISE MEN TALK BECAUSE THEY HAVE

SOMETHING TO SAY ... FOOLS, BECAUSE

THEY HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING.

(PLATO)

Plato's quote is a guide for these blogs. I leave it to the reader to decide which applies.

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