Washington - Oct 5, 2001 - In a meeting with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Radio Television News Directors Association and other interested groups made their case to get news helicopters back in the air. The meeting with FAA chief counsel David Leitch and other FAA officials was the first direct discussion of the government ban on news helicopters that has been in effect since the September 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. The meeting included representatives from television networks, local stations, the National Broadcast Pilots Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the news helicopter industry.
Media representatives made the case that news helicopters pose no threat to national security and should be allowed back in the air. They cited examples of other types of aircraft that are already back in the sky, including crop dusters, small planes with student pilots, and others. They also said that news helicopters, unlike some aircraft, are locked and in hangars when on the ground, and that pilots and reporters are known to the local air traffic authorities. RTNDA president Barbara Cochran made the point that newspeople need to have helicopters in order to cover the news in large areas and to fulfill their public service mission. The newspeople emphasized that they wanted to work with the FAA and would be happy to find means of operating that would satisfy the government's security concerns. One model suggested was to observe operating measures adopted for coverage of the Olympic games in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Approximately 250 television and radio stations use helicopters for coverage of news and traffic. Restrictions on news flights have been lifted outside the 30 largest metropolitan areas.
FAA representatives said they were not able to reverse the ban on their own but would forward information to the appropriate government agencies, including the National Security Council. They asked the media group to supply the FAA with written information about the number of aircraft involved, the names and number of people who fly in those aircraft and whether security checks have been done on them, and more information about where the aircraft are stored and whether they are locked, monitored and guarded when not in use.
RTNDA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTNDA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and other electronic media in more than 30 countries.