Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Burnt Toast

Flight Ops. I love my Flight weeks, however the last four flight weeks of my rotation have been somewhat lacking in the breaking news department. My colleagues, have been a bit more fortunate. It's the luck of the draw really, you just never know if the Video News Gods will be smiling on you or not.
Sunday night brought a call out to a situation on the borders. The long and short of it was Canadian Border Agents are unarmed. A bad guy from the "Terminator" State was headed this way according to US Homeland Security. He was armed and presumed dangerous. So the Border Agents, well they walked off the job, fled, packed up. The lineups for the border went to infinity and Gary and Kelsy were called out to fly the border. The "Barndtman" , who normally stays away from any kind of notoriety, actually was pressed into service as a flight reporter. He did a fine job. You would have thought he had been doing it his whole life.
Watching this from home, I thought well there goes the big helo story for this week, I am sure that Monday, my first day back in three weeks, would have me shooting nothing but beauty shots, a fate I was becoming all too familiar with.
I woke up to a clear sky, a good sign when on Flight Ops. We are beginning to get into the Fog and low cloud season on the West Coast. The drive to the airport was filled with anticipation. Surely to god this would be a good week, I needed a good week. Hell for that matter, just a good day, I'll take that.
I called Kink.
"Kink, are you headed to the aerodrome or have been recalled to the black hole we call down town?" I asked.
"Murman, nobody's called I am headed in and should see you in a few minutes" he answered.
That was a good sign.
Today would also be the first day of a format change with our 5 and 6 shows. There will be more hits from our flying machine. Now all we had to do is find some content to fill our new obligations to the show. Easier said that done.
Kink was given a potential assignment, I monitored scanners. Kink worked the phone, I adjusted squeltch.
Suddenly tones. Yes, fire tones blared out over the speaker. "Engine 5 responding, smoke showing"

The plot thickens, maybe the smoke will thicken too.
I call this one into the desk. Leah, answers.
"Just a heads up we got fire action, in Burnaby they just called second alarm"
Wade our pilot for the day is already calling for a code.
Then as quickly as hopes were raised, they were dashed. The scanner chirps "Engine Five, dispatch, cancel all apparatus on second alarm, Kitchen Toaster."
God damn it, I wish people would learn to operate their freakin toasters. Burnt Toast.

Well as the day grinds on, Kink is having a difficult time to find someone to speak to a report that we want to serve up for the show. He plays telephone tag, when he finds a contact, they pass him along to someone else. The best laid plan is coming unglued real quick. I look at the clock, it's near 4. We fly in an hour and we got nothin'. Not a good situation. I thought "Not again", I am going to be punished by the Flying Video Gods for a 5th week, I can feel it.

Just before 4:55 the cell rings as we head out to launch the Helicopter for the show. It's Gregg. Gregg is like our "Radar O'Riley" only on speed. Gregg says, "we got a boat in trouble and a person overboard in English Bay"
OK we can work with that.
As we take off Kink and Gregg are in contact and as we arrive at English Bay, Gregg tells us that we need to head directly to the Lion's Gate. As we fly to the area, we round the landmass that is Stanley Park, the event reveals itself. And there it is, manna from heaven, a gift from the Flying Video Gods, a cargo ship has run hard aground just to the east of the Lions Gate Bridge.

As we arrived there are two valiant tugs straining to refloat and move this monster. Thier efforts are in vain. More tugs rush to the scene.
Kink does the first of many hits into the 5. The pilot and I are betting cases of refreshment on whether the ship will be freed before the tide begins to turn.

Frame Grab- tugs racing to the sticken ship

It is a great made for the TV News kinda story. We have a bulk carrier, that for reasons unknown at this time, seem to make a hard left into Stanley Park. What are the tides doing? What is the ship carrying? Is she leaking or taking on water? Calls are made, information is relayed via blackberry to Kink in the front seat.

Frame grab- tugs working the Bow

We continue to orbit. More tugs are dispatched. There are now 7 working the wreck. Other shipping is backing up in the Burrard Inlet. Cruise Ships, other Merchant ships, all prevented from making the passage through the Narrows.

Backed up ship traffic- Two Cruise Ships and a Container Ship- Oh the Humanity

All we need is for the ship on the rocks to be carrying something dangerous. Uranium, or Plutonium,,,,,, nope Grain. Maybe exploding Grain,,,,,nope regular grain, wheat off to who knows where to make bread. And where there is bread there's toast,,,, Burnt Toast.

The scene played itself out below. Fifteen tugs were now giving it all of their horsepower. The tide was on the rise and was expected to peak in less than 30 minutes.

A shot taken just at the moment she became free- there are 15 tugs on her-12 seen in this shot -3 more one the blind side of the shot

Through my lens I notice that the angle of the anchor chain from the ship had changed dramatically. I tell Kink, I think they have it. I zoom into the stern of the ship. She's making a small wake. She's free. It's just before the end of the show. Come back to us we can wrap this baby. But instead of a hit they just come back to pictures and close the show. Damn so close it would have been perfect.
It doesn't bother me as much as Kink, I'm just glad I went through 2.3 hours of show flight time and was not asked for a weather shot. Yes it was good to be shooting something breaking.

The Lions Gate Bridge, The Stanley Park Seawall to the left and the Ship that found the rocks

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