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

Friday, September 22, 2006


You meet some of the most interesting people in our daily travels. I have been lucky in the past month as I had been assigned to both the Abbottsford Airshow and to the CTV Broadcast Center at the PNE. At each of these events I had the good fortune to meet many people who stopped by the Helicopter at the airshow, and the Stage at the PNE.
Each event is unique, yet the mission is the same. Wave the flag, make connections with the public. During the airshow, we get mostly families with children who want to see Chopper 9. The entire flight crew is present. We give away things like t-shirts and hats. The folks stand in line to take a seat in the machine. Most are curious about all of the monitors and controls for the camera. Some are interested in the aviation side of the machine. They ask questions, we try to answer them, all the while, making a connection to people. Now we hope that these folks will become loyal viewers, many who visit already are, but in any event meeting people is the key.

Chopper 9 on Static at the Abbottsford Airshow

At the PNE we have a much larger presence. The Promotions department have a large booth. There's a broadcast stage and jumbo tron. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the cool thing is we give away a ride everyday aboard Chopper 9. Thousands of people enter. I had the good fortune to meet several of the prize winners. I would escort them to the landing area at the infield of Hastings Park Race Track. As I would accompany them to the infield I would give the excieted and often first time helicopter passengers, a safety briefing. It truely was an enjoyable duty.

Chopper 9 on an approach into the infield of the Hastings Raceway

Again, making contact, personal contact with folks from all over, with the hopes that their encounter with us will invite them to become a loyal viewer.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I haven't been feeling very well for the past couple of days. I don't know if it is the last couple of months catching up with me or just the changing of the seasons, but I have not had much energy the last week or so.

Tomorrow marks nine years since we signed on. Hard to believe that it has been that long, but the time has flown by. I remember arriving here in Vancouver, and going over to our building on Robson and Burrard just a few weeks before we were to sign on for the first time and thinking "How the hell are we going to do that, there's nothing here except bare concrete floors and some wires hanging from the ceiling."
Those were heady days, the group assembled were all very excited about launching a new TV Station. There were many who had previous years of Television experience and then there were others that had none. It was indeed an interesting group. Yet each one of the start up team brought something to the table. It all made for a fantastic energy that sustained us and propelled VTV onto the Vancouver airwaves.
I was very proud to be a part of something so dynamic. A start up was something I had yet to live through in my career. Weeks of 18 hour days all so we could officially launch on Sept. 22, 1997.
The first live broadcasts were a couple of days before "Launch Date". I was privileged to have been the camera for the very first live pictures transmitted. A shot of Vicki Gaberau and Amir Haleem, introducing us as VTV.
We have come a long way since that crazy startup time. Many of the "originals" have moved on to other projects, other cities. But many of us are still here. I guess we feel that we all had a part in growing the station on Robson and Burrard. We have left our pound of flesh in the place.
VTV grew into CTV British Columbia. Live TV has always been a part of the station since the beginning. We began with 5 live trucks, scaled it back to 4 a year or so later. Finally acquired a Sat Truck in 2000 and just 3 years ago added a News Gathering Helicopter to the mix.
It's been quite a ride and tomorrow we're 9.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Oh Captain, my Captain.

This was an email that I sent out at the station, on the first day of school last September upon learning some bad news from home. I want to share it with you.

Ah September, the beginning of the school year. Remember when you were school age and either treated this time of year with excitement or as in my case with dread. Do you remember that teacher or professor that challenged you. You know what I mean, the one that saw the potential within. That teacher that inspired you to take risks to leave your comfort zone, help shape the kind of adult that you have become.

I was fortunate enough to have such a teacher, my grade 10 English teacher, Mary (Missy) Boyne. She showed me how be a story teller. She helped me discover creativity. Frankly she had a major influence on the kind of person I grew to become. She was more than an English teacher, she was a teacher of life. The school motto at Saint John High is Vita Vitalis- A Life Worthwhile, She lived it.

Missy left us this past weekend. She was far too young and there were many more classes to teach but, I cannot help but feel deep sadness of her passing.

Now, I would like you all to take a moment and reflect about that special teacher that was your "Missy". Take a moment if you are able and send them an email or a note just to say thanks. They will be happy to hear from you and you will be glad you did.

I miss you Missy and thanks.