PILOT PERSPECTIVE: The 'news hustle' - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

PILOT PERSPECTIVE: The 'news hustle'

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Although the mission of the Chopper 5 crew is not one of life saving, we spend much of our time on standby waiting for "the call" much like our fine colleagues of the EMS and police services. We remain available and monitoring flight conditions at all times, ready for the call to launch. Once that call comes in, we hustle to safely get airborne and bring the Action News 5 viewers breaking news from our perspective.

The process is pretty seamless and is a team effort all the way through. The entire Action News 5 team is always on the lookout for breaking news and working to bring it to you quickly with accuracy. As the pilot of Chopper 5, I rely primarily on our assignment editors to give us the word to launch. We call these folks "The Desk".

The Desk folks are responsible for monitoring developing situations via scanner, various electronic sources and other investigative means. Once something potentially newsworthy is identified, The Desk will call me on the Chopper 5 Alert Phone with the instruction to launch to and provide a basic direction or destination. At that point, Jessica and I will hustle to Chopper 5 which is usually waiting on the ramp, poised for the mission.

The Chopper will be given one last look by me to ensure airworthiness while I untether the blades. Jessica usually takes this opportunity to make sure that our tail cam and FLIR cam lenses are clean. We take our positions inside of the aircraft, Jessica in the rear cabin with our state of the art Electronic News Gathering (ENG) gear and me in the front at the flight controls.

Once at the flight controls, it is my responsibility to ensure that the aircraft is started properly, safely and without any limitations being exceeded. Once the turbine engine is started and the various switches activated, I listen to the required Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS) while Jessica runs through her preflight checks of the ENG equipment. By the time we are ready for take off, Jessica will have gotten grid coordinates for our destination from The Desk and I enter the data into our GPS system. The GPS and final look at the instruments are the last step before checking in with Memphis Tower.

Memphis International is among the busiest airports in the country and their controllers among the best. There can be up to four runways in use at relatively the same time, which means the controllers don't have time to waste. For these reasons, it's important that when I check in with my departure request that I give them the required information in the required format clearly and concisely without transmitting over airliners and other traffic.

Once cleared for departure from Memphis Tower, we take off into the wind and get on course for the assigned breaking news destination as quickly as possible. At this point we are usually in communication with The Desk for updates and speaking with another critical link in the chain that we call "ENG" (I'll tell you about them at the next blogging opportunity). This is the "News Hustle" from our perspective.

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