Wednesday, June 28, 2006

To Boldly Go,,,,,,,

Over the years I have had the good fortune to witness a number of aviation record attempts. In February of 1996, American adventurer Steve Fossett crashed his high altitude balloon about 5 kilometers from my house near Darlings Island, as he attempted to circumnavigate, becoming the first person to complete non stop flight around the globe. He would fail on this attempt, but he did try this several times again and ultimately succeed years later.

About 18 months ago, I had the privilege to watch a young man become the youngest African American to solo an aircraft and receive his pilots license. The record came about at the Boundary Bay Airport in Delta B.C. We watched from midfield in a hover and I followed him with the Chopper 9 FLIR camera. As 15 year old Kenny Roy of California began his flight, I was beaming live pictures back to CTV control in Vancouver. The signal from there was being sent via satellite back to TV stations back in the L.A area. Young Mr. Roy took off and maneuvered into what is called the "circuit". This is a flight pattern that takes him to the north side of the airport in a clockwise "circuit" back into an approach for the main runway. We all listened as the he called the tower to request his first "touch and go". He approached and then set his wheels down with what seemed like little effort and then accelerated to lift off once more. This was repeated and finally after several minutes our hero requested landing. Again he touched the plane down and taxied his way into the record book. I had felt privileged to have seen the accomplishment first hand.

This past Friday another young man was flying up from the same flight school as Mr. Roy had attended. This time this particular young fellow was flying a helicopter. He was going to attempt to become the youngest person to fly solo both a fixed wing and a helicopter,,,, on the same day!
Again I was lucky enough to be on the ground, waiting for 14 year old Jonathan Strickland and his Instructor pilot Robin Petgrave.

14 year old Jonathan Strickland landing at Boundary Bay Airport and into the record books last Friday

Young Jonathan piloted himself into the record books by becoming the youngest person to pilot a helicopter internationally. He bought the Robinson 44 into a hover just above the big yellow "H" directly in from of the main Boundary Bay Terminal and touched down like he had been doing this his whole life.
We got to speak to them both and it was in a conversation with Mr. Petgrave that we had learned of young Jonathan's story. Jonathan became interested in flying as he watched with is grandfather the live broadcast of Mr. Roy's historic fight 18 months earlier. It was then that Jonathan's grand dad challenged him to get involved. And so he did. Most of the young people that go to Mr. Petgrave's flight school are from the inner city. These kids have challenges that many of us have never had to experience. Young men and women work around the hangar for flight lessons. They help clean aircraft, sweep the hangar and generally help out with the day to day things that need gettin' done around the hangar. They learn discipline, the value of hard work and become solid young citizens as they drive toward their dream of flight. We were told that Jonathan worked especially hard to be given this opportunity.

Jonathan Strickland and Chief Pilot Robin Petgrave Photos courtesy of Tyler Johnson Boundary Bay Airport

Today Jonathan became the youngest person to fly both fixed and rotary wing and received both licenses on the same day. I cannot help but feel that our broadcast 18 months ago helped inspire this young man to boldly go where no 14 year old has gone before.
You can check out Robin Petgrave's web site for more information about his program to inspire young people to become involved in the world of aviation.
You never know young Jonathan might be flying an ENG Helicopter near you someday.

Friday, June 23, 2006


It's been a crazy couple of days. Our heli still sits on the ground waiting for it's FLIR camera to be returned from Oregon. So all of us have found ourselves on the ground this week. We should be back in business by Tuesday. We shall see,,,,,

Last night I got a call as I was doing battle with my virus program on my home computer when my cell phone rang. I was my good friend Janet D calling from one of the downtown bars. "Murray, It's Janet. I'm here with a bunch of the girls and guess who just walked into the place,?" Wayne Gretzky!" She sounded very excited. "None of us have a camera."
The after parties of the NHL Awards Show were just getting started and the who's who of hockeydom were in Vancouver, much to the delight of Janet and the rest of the gang at the bar. "I wanted to call as I know how much you would appreciate us meeting the Great One."
"Tell the Great One, Murman says hello and I'm glad he got back OK from Turin." I chuckled. "You better go so you don't miss your chance to say hello"

I had been a little bummed that I didn't get the Awards assignment, but I found out this morning that one of the other "hockey guys", Gary drew the assignment. That's cool, Gary would appreciate being there.

This morning when I got into the office I was regailed with brushes with Gretzky tales. One of my collegues Lisa, proudly showed me her wallet signed by noneother than number 99 himself. "I wished I had a camera with me" she said. Well through the magic of Murman here is an idea of what kind of photo Janet and Lisa had in mind:

Janet, The Great One and Lisa enjoying the after party!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Kickball Cup

Today is the first day of the "Off Season". Off season, you ask? Yes "Off Season". You see in Murman's world there are only two seasons: the "off season" and "hockey season". With the seventh and decieding game of the Stanley Cup played last night in Carolina the seasons have changed.
You may be curious to know that in my shop there is a sporting frenzy going on about some sort of pastime played with some sort of round sphere and the object of this game to use one's foot to advance this "sphere" in to an opponent's goal. Now where I am from "sports" are played on ice and the sport is hockey.
I take a good deal of good hearted ribbing about my love of hockey especially with my friends in the Engineering and I.T departments. I guess this soccer thing is "their" hockey and OK I guess I can live with that. Why one would watch 90 plus minutes of guys running around after a ball, diving and flopping on the field everytime an opponent looks at them funny, is kinda beyond me. Give me ice, give me a stick and a puck, maybe a few stitches and you have yourself some damn fine entertainment.
Now it might surprise you to know, I used to play soccer, I was a keeper. In fact I played the game so I could stay in shape for hockey. Hell I have even attended a World Cup Final game in 1994 at Foxborrow Mass. I saw Italy beat Spain 2-1 in a packed stadium. Yes it was fun, but it was no Stanley Cup.
The World Cup is different though, it's the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet. And it is a spectacle when you see grown men go down like they have been shot when someone brushes up against them, yet is fit to go once the foul is called. And have you actually seen the "cup" they are playing for? God, give me at least a trophy you can drink out of,,,,

This year as in past years our friends in the Engineering and I.T departments hold a winner take all "World Cup" pool. This year there are 50 people in the contest, all watching every result. There has been a lot of good natured kidding around as our former winner, Milton, who is in every sense of the word a soccer FANATIC, has been struggling with his choices for this year.
We have people in our plant from every corner of the world. Naturally those with Polish backgrounds are not especially happy, yet our Limey Camera Operator and Desk Gal are excited that Britania moves to the next round. Our Italian friends on the third floor have been keeping a low profile as the Azzuri are not playing particularly well, but will likely advance despite themselves. Our former winner Milton, well his hopes have been dashed, but Brazil is moving on and he's happy about that. I too chose a team for this pool, after all the organizers are eager to take the "hockeyman's money". It has made this event at least mildly interesting. I have gone down to our engineering department to see the posted results and trade barbs with the "soccer crowd", it's been kinda fun. My whole goal in this thing was just to finish better than my friend Milton because god knows I will hear about it for the next 4 feakin' years. And I have been holding my own. Seventh, fifth, tenth, but ahead of my "Ice Hockey Hate'n" friend Milton. He had a good laugh when he saw my picks and asked why I would pick Ecuador as one of my teams. "I like the music of the Andes" I said.
I went to check on the results today and as of this writing, MURMAN is winning this pool. Yes that's right, the HOCKEY GUY is leading 49 other soccer heads. Imagine how entertaining it would be if it were played on ICE. If I win this thing I just might buy a trophy, one you can drink out of.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The week began with so much promise. It is my flight week so as many of you regular readers know, I am always geeked up about that. I had just got into the hangar when the cell rang. It was Tanya. Tanya is the goddess of logistics on the assignment desk. She dispatches our ENG Crews. Its a tough gig as she juggles the needs of the assignment editor, and the needs of reporters for cameras and the needs of cameras for their meal breaks. She never has a dull moment, yet she does it with thought and great humour. Many of us don't know how the news room would function without our Tanya. Every news room needs her, but you can't have her, she's ours,,,,,
Anyway, Tan calls: "Murman, I just got a panic call from Gregg"
I interrupt her and say, (and I say this with affection Gregg) "Is there any other kind of call from Gregg? Panic?"
She has a laugh. When she calls I do try to make her smile as you need all the humour you can muster when you sit in Tan's seat.
"We have a potential Flight Request,,,,"
I hadn't been there 2 minutes and we are calling for a squawk code. Off we went to check out a potential hostage situation on a bridge. It turned out to be a "jumper". After a very quick recon, headed off to another potential scene call nearby. It turned into a very quick .9 of an hour. All good.

Off to check out a scene call, shot out of my window

We head back to base and wait for the next call. We don't wait long. Off to Whistler for a construction accident. This call was more serious as a worker had been killed working on Olympic construction. We ended up landing at the Whistler Heliport as Dave met up with a freelancer to gather clips on the ground.

In Whistler, Fueling Up. Blackcomb Helicopter's Eurostar machine in the background

About 45 minutes later a second helicopter arrives. Out pops 2 Global crews. They too are on the story and are scrambling to get some clip action from the ground. One crew leaves via cab and the second camera stays with the ship. We chat for a minute. Then the cell rings, it surprises me as cell service at the heliport is pretty dodgy. I am told to get ready to take flight again. Dave is on his way back and I will cut something on the flight back to Vancouver.
By the time we get ourselves back to Horseshoe Bay, I have cut a bunch of stuff together. As we approach YVR I feed it into the Station. As we land I feel my stomach growl. I glance at my watch, it's almost 4 PM. Geeze where did that day go?
We take flight again for the show and Dave reports from the Helicopter the sad news of a Worker killed on the job. When we return to base, we have logged 4 flight hours for the day. This could shape up to be a busy week.
Tuesday brings a brief scene call which doesn't yield anything news worthy. Still we manage to get a .9 out of it. The rest of the day is slow, but we have the show to look forward to. We could have something breaking during the show and it would salvage the day. The Flying Video Gods however had something else in store for me.
As we took off for our Show Flight I noticed that as I engaged the FLIR camera that my horizon control was not responding to any input I was giving the control. This was a problem. I hoped that a simple reboot would fix the problem. It would not and we were forced to abort back to Base.

Shot of the FLIR Camera mounted on the nose of CHOPPER 9

The plan would be to have CTV engineers work the problem early the next morning. FLIR Camera problems have happened in the past. They usually were fixed by simply changing a fuse accessible in the forward camera. This problem however was not a fuse. Damn.
The news was not good. We would have to send the unit back to the factory in Oregon.
And with that, a flight week that began with so much anticipation ended with me helping engineers load the unit into packing crates.

I guess the only flying I'll be doing will be flying a Live Truck.

The shadow of Chopper 9 as we come in for our final landing Tuesday evening. Talon Helicopter's Eurostar and 206 Jet Ranger in the background

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend Assignment

My assignment today was about a young 13 year old girl and her single mom packing for a trip to Toronto. We met up with Mom and Daughter at a school carwash. I was able to get some shots of our young subject interacting with her friends.
Cecilia is not unlike any other young person of her age. She likes music, she likes to sing and she tells me she likes to act and enjoys school drama. Pretty normal stuff really. She has a smile that lights up a room. She would like sports and the outdoors, but cannot enjoy them. She gets cold easy. Walking with her mom or hanging with her friends at the car wash today, tires her out. She is easly fatigued.
Cecilia has endured more in her thirteen years than most of us will in a life time. She has been through several open heart operations and now she needs a new heart.
That is why her and her mom are on their way to Toronto. She needs to be close to "Toronto Sick Kids Hospital" as they are the only childrens hospital that will do transplant operations. She may be there for a very long time waiting for a heart.
Why blog this story? Well it made me think and I hope it makes you think about discussing with your family about organ donation. I know its a tough subject and can be an uncomfortable one but do it. Signing the back of one's drivers licence is not enough. Talk to your family, speak to your doctor.
There are many more stories out there of people of all ages. They love life but their organs are failing. They need a gift and that gift is the gift of life.
I know we all wish Cecilia well and with that gift of a new heart, a healthy out look. I know I hope that I can do a followup story of her on stage doing what she loves most, performing.
We all love stories that have a happy ending.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Silver Anniversary

June 2, it marked my 25th anniversary in Television. Back in 1981 when I still had hair and that youthful confidence that most 19 year olds have today. This story begins though several weeks earlier in Sackville, NB where I was attending University. University and I didn't really get along very well. Most attend, most graduate, all learn. I learned I'd rather be working then going to school.
I had always wanted to be a News Cameraman, but how to get into the business? Taking arts at Mount A was not going to get me there or would it?
As the summer approached and finals drew near, many students regularly checked the employment office that was on campus for potential summer jobs, trying to get a job in their chosen field or at the very least a job that would pay enough to get them back for another year in the fall. I have to admit that I was the latter as I believed I would return in the fall and try to figure out what the hell I was doing.
This particular afternoon I was heading over to the employment center to interview with someone from the Columbia Ice Fields for a job at the park. The interview didn't go terribly well, but that fateful appointment bore other fruit. As I exited the interview I decided to check the job board, especially because I felt the folks from the Ice Fields likely through my file in the waste basket. One add caught my eye. "Wanted: Junior News Reporter" What's this I thought? A position at a TV Station and in my home town,,,,
I began to write down the contact information. At the end of the notice it gave a deadline date, it was tomorrow. Shit I gotta work fast. I ran to my dorm and called the phone number. I asked for the contact person. When she answered, she told me that the process would close at 9 am the next day. I begged her to make an appointment for me with the man doing the hiring. His name was Dave White and he was the news director at CHSJ. With the appointment made my next problem was getting to Saint John. I looked at the clock and I had 20 minutes to get myself to the Via station to catch the last train to Saint John. I grabbed a resume and my wallet. Shit, I need some clothes for the interview. I grabbed my roommate's sport jacket and his tie one of his clean shirts and since I had grabbed that much, I grabbed his clean pants as well. I took my own socks. I left him a quick note and then hauled ass to the train station. I barely made it.
Nobody was more surprised to see me arrive home that my mom and dad. I usually warn them when I was coming home. "I have a job interview at 8:45 in the morning"
Needless to say, I didn't get that job, but it did open the door. Mr. White was very good to me and had been impressed with my story of how I came to be in his office. "You must want this job bad to come all this way" Yes sir, I want to begin a career in broadcasting. I want to be a news camera man.
He suggested that I go back to university and finish my exams and then come back to see him when I was through. I did. He still didn't hire me.
"Murray my boy, I am going to pass along your resume to our Operations Department. I need a reporter, not a techie." He said.
I called every week hoping that they would have something for a young upstart. Several weeks went by. Nothing. I was beginning to think that I would be forced to find another job flipping burgers like in high school.
Then one evening I got a call. Mr. Merzetti at CHSJ wanted me to come in for an interview. I did my best to convince him that I was the right guy for the job. At the time I didn't even know who the competition was for the station and in my youthful eagerness, told him I wanted to learn as much as I could and eventually work for CTV someday. OPPS, did I just say that suddenly realizing that CHSJ was a CBC affiliate. God I'm dead. But Dave seemed to see something in me and gave me the job despite my ignorance. My foot was now in the door. I would begin this journey in a Master Control Room that very afternoon, June 2, 1981.

The job was only supposed to be for the summer. By August Mr. Merzetti called me into the office, this time to offer me a full time position. I took it and at 19 I was the youngest staffer and one of only two in the building that had began in the operations department. A couple of years later Dave White brought me into the news room as a News Cameraman.
The rest is history, but I have to thank both Dave's for taking a chance on a kid with zero experience, but lots of enthusiam. They helped launch my career. Neither is in the business anymore. Dave White runs a small mobile saw milling operation on the Kingston Peninsula or he did when I left the maritimes. Dave Merzetti, worked briefly in private production and passed away quite suddenly a few years ago.