Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Big Bear Lake: ENG pilots, hovering at the fringe

Viewers may wonder how law enforcement authorities are able to keep news helicopters from peering into the cabin where, allegedly, Christopher Dorner is holed up.

The answer is the Temporary Flight Restriction, which is imposed by the FAA at the request of law enforcement agencies. Here's the link to the TFR now in effect at Big Bear Lake: it covers a radius of five nautical miles, from the ground up to 13,000 feet above sea level. 
 CNN has been featuring aerial footage from the LA sister stations KCAL and KCBS. While researching my helicopter book The God Machine I had the fun of spending some hours with Larry Welk, then a contract news reporter/pilot for KCAL and KCBS, through his company Angel City Air.

At HeliExpo conventions since then, I've also heard what he and fellow electronic news-gathering pilots think about today's TFRs: they regard the FAA as way too liberal in handing them out.

Also note the camera work in this evening's news footage, which is able to reach out for miles from its position over a roadblock and zoom in on a semi unloading an armored car way up in the hills. It's remarkably stable though shot from a hovering helicopter.

Larry termed his helo's camera a "kick-ass" unit when I rode with him, and rightfully so. Even back in 2006 the gyro-stabilized, nose-mounted camera was capable of reading a license plate at a half-mile distance.  

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