On Memorial Day 1980, it was just another day for me. [“ ‘Unusual noise’ before helicopter crashed near Space Needle,” Local News, Mar. 19]
We were assigned to monitor the traffic backups at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal aboard KIRO-TV’s Chopper 7 that holiday afternoon. The KOMO traffic plane had the same assignment. As it happened, there were no traffic delays so we decided to fly north to the Edmonds ferry terminal. Within minutes our two aircraft collided. We both crash landed.
Unlike the recent incident, we had the advantage of height. Because we were flying at 1,200 feet, our Vietnam-War-trained pilot was able to execute a maneuver which allowed our main rotor to use the air to cushion our fall. We were able to escape unharmed. The KOMO pilot also landed uninjured. After escaping our crushed helicopter, the photographer and I joyfully embraced, so happy — and surprised — to be alive.
Afterward, there was some discussion about the safety and use of helicopters to cover the news. Perhaps in part because there were no injuries or deaths, that discussion soon ended. Helicopters are simply one of the best news-gathering tools available, they enjoy a good safety record and our local pilots are the best anywhere.
No doubt journalists will keep flying, helping inform viewers.
But as they bring us that journalism, let’s remember the risks they take.
It’s never just another day.
Bob Branom, former KIRO-TV reporter and producer, Seattle