Chopper 5 pilot details storm chasing techniques - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Chopper 5 pilot details storm chasing techniques

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - KFOR out of Oklahoma City captured incredible video with its chopper of the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. So, how is that even possible? Is it safe?

Action News 5's Chopper 5 pilot Sam Farris weighed in.

"Flying any aircraft, particularly a helicopter, is an operation of risk management. There's risks involved," explained Farris.

The biggest risk? Bad weather.

"The weather will take you out of the equation entirely," he said.

Chopper 5 does not often chase severe storms. Either visibility is too low, the squall line too big, or any number of other contributing factors.

But Farris spent years chasing storms as a chopper pilot in Phoenix.

He says the only way to capture heart-stopping images like the ones captured in Oklahoma City is to do it very carefully, when the atmosphere allows -- from a distance.

"It's gonna be about 20 or 30 miles, you just can't get underneath that ledge that close to the thunderstorm. So what it is really is the magic of the camera. It's got a tremendous zoom," said Farris. "Some of these storms are pretty rapidly moving. You want to be pretty cognizant of it, which direction is it, how close to the edge, and can you get to shelter."

Storm chasing with a chopper requires mapping out a fuel strategy. Chopper 5 can fly for about three hours before it must land to fill up.

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