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News Nostalgia: Missing Chopper Wars

One of the Greats:  The Mighty SkyFox

One of the Greats: The Mighty SkyFox

Damn, it's not like I don't know they cost money and fundamentally distort news coverage in favor of car chases and traffic jams. But you know what? I've always loved news choppers. And I hate to see them go.

SFLTV reports tonight another cease-fire in what was at one time a hotbed of chopper warfare: Miami. According to the blog, WFOR and WPLG will join forces, sharing a logo-free chopper that will fly the skies over South Florida without a hint of the over-the-top SoFla graphics that made Miami's choppers so cool.  (The chopper itself will be WPLG's Sky 10, without branding except on air, but for rotor nuts like me... painting it grey puts a period at the end of a sentence that WPLG itself started with the first news helicopter in Miami back in 1979.  Just watch for WSVN's SkyForce promo to come...)

When I was reporting in Miami, running on a breaker, the skies let you know how far ahead--or behind you were. If you were driving toward the scene and saw four birds hovering on the horizon, well, you could figure that everybody knew about your little "exclusive." Your best hope was to be the first crew on the ground, because as amazing and fast and multi-colored as the choppers were, they weren't much help when somebody started giving sound.

There were horrible times in Miami and elsewhere, when the chase for news in the sky led to disaster and death. And all too often, stories made it onto the air because the chopper could get there and give you a liveshot, whether the pickup partly off the road and into a canal was a real newsworthy event or not. "And look how everyone's slowing down to get around that tire in the road!" Uh, wow.

But I for one will miss the years of watching choppers in my markets and elsewhere, getting geeky over the ever-cooler and faster machines, and the sense of military might that a newsroom had when it could field a loud, powerful helicopter to back up a reporter on a story.

And then there were the rides. Flying high over Florida sunsets in WPLG's Sky 10, and skimming skyscrapers over Manhattan at night in WNYW's SkyFox... those choppers were just one of the coolest perks of being a television reporter. I kinda hate to see it all end.

Museum Piece:  KXAS Helicopter Hanging in DC's Newseum

Museum Piece: KXAS Helicopter Hanging in DC's Newseum

[And I know I'm not the only one. If you've got a favorite local news chopper story, a cool pic, or promo to share, please post away!]

UPDATE: Here's that 1998 WNBC Chopper 4 promo Chris Cristi mentions in comments: