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Hi everyone,

 

I'm working on a plan to set up a traffic watch helicopter for a local radio station. I've got an idea about the flying part / time schedule but to be honest, I don't have a clou about the technical requirements (radio, broadcasting equipment, etc.) :unsure:

 

Can anybody please help me with some good technical advise? Of cause any other sort of brain storming is also welcome.

 

Thanks HeliFrank

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I know here in New Jersey, my local fixed wing flight school did (maybe still does) traffic reporting. They used a two way radio or cell phone to call the company they worked for. Anything they saw they would write down what was going on and when they got a change the would call the station.

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Most metro traffic watch is done with small GA planes (172s, Sports, etc). All you need is an FM comm radio back to the station, and a radio to tune in to the broadcast. This can be a carry on-off kind of unit which plugs into power and antenna jacks in the aircraft.

 

Helicopters aren't so popular for radio traffic hits - too expensive, and too slow to get all around the city. Even an R22 will not be able to compete with a Beech 150 on cost or speed (and the Beech is a LOT roomier with double the endurance).

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What kind of info do you need? if you are wondering what kind of radio to use, it is up to the radio station you can use a regular fm two way for reporting back to the studio, or if they have a marty radio setup they might want you to use that. the quality is better but is more expensive. you can also use regular fm two ways for going live, but you will want to have one that is mounted in the aircraft. If you have any specific questions just ask.

 

 

sorry about the punctuation

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Thanks for your help so far. I always thought that they might use something more sophisticated than a two-way FM radio. :D

 

@ Helopitts, sorry for asking, but what is a "marty radio setup" never heart of it before (might be a language problem in my case).

 

@Flingwing206 You are right, a fixed-wing will always be cheaper but the helicopter, specially in big cities with dense air traffic, will always have the advantage of being able to fly slow and low. ;)

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In my area nearly all of the radio and TV stations all talk about their "traffic copters" if they are above the minivans level. Of course there might be the planes that I just don't hear about.

 

Thanks for your help so far. I always thought that they might use something more sophisticated than a two-way FM radio. :D

 

@ Helopitts, sorry for asking, but what is a "marty radio setup" never heart of it before (might be a language problem in my case).

 

@Flingwing206 You are right, a fixed-wing will always be cheaper but the helicopter, specially in big cities with dense air traffic, will always have the advantage of being able to fly slow and low. ;)

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the helicopter, specially in big cities with dense air traffic, will always have the advantage of being able to fly slow and low. ;)
Low and slow is an advantage if you're doing news - reporting on an accident, for instance. But you won't be able to cover the territory in time - radio stations want to hear what's happening all over town, 2 - 3 times minimum during the drives. In a helicopter, you only are going to get around town once. For this an airplane has the advantage - you don't need to be 700' AGL to see slow-moving traffic. In case you're wondering, we run a metro traffic airplane in Minneapolis.

 

These days, if you hear traffic from a helicopter, it's either TV, or an ENG ship doing double-duty (partnership or agreement between the TV station and radio station). Showing traffic reports on TV always amuses me - what's the point, really (and yep, I've done traffic ENG too).

 

I'm not trying to talk you out of your business plan, good on you if you get it going!

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Low and slow is an advantage if you're doing news - reporting on an accident, for instance. But you won't be able to cover the territory in time - radio stations want to hear what's happening all over town, 2 - 3 times minimum during the drives. In a helicopter, you only are going to get around town once. For this an airplane has the advantage - you don't need to be 700' AGL to see slow-moving traffic. In case you're wondering, we run a metro traffic airplane in Minneapolis.

 

These days, if you hear traffic from a helicopter, it's either TV, or an ENG ship doing double-duty (partnership or agreement between the TV station and radio station). Showing traffic reports on TV always amuses me - what's the point, really (and yep, I've done traffic ENG too).

 

I'm not trying to talk you out of your business plan, good on you if you get it going!

Fling - that may be your experience in the markets you're exposed to, but a major entertainment network just launched traffic watch for their radio stations in seven markets using R44s. Seems they have adequate speed to cover their territories? Two of those markets already have R22s doing traffic watch for multiple radio stations.

 

I am familiar with another major market that uses a combination of three aircraft, one helicopter and two fixed-wing for radio traffic watch. That seems to provide an ideal mix for focused attention in the closer-in congested areas where a fixed-wing wouldn't be able to loiter as long as necessary nor be able to stay out of ATC's way (under/in Class B & in Class Ds), and greater speed for the more spread-out outlying areas with the airplanes.

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Hi FlingWing206,

 

I see your point on speed and altitude but you might want to keep in mind that not all cities have the same dimensions. The area we are operating in is a highly populated thus dense area in Central Europe. Cities over here aren't that wide spread as they are in the US. Within 10 minutes I can fly from the very northern city boundary to the very south of it (at least in a 407 it is :P )

 

Due to the International Airport bplaced right in the middle of the city we have to deal with heavy airflow in controlled airspace (For me it's a lot easier to hold short of a missed approach sector in a helicopter than flying holding patterns in a Cessna :D )

 

Finally the weather: I would hate to fly in a Cessna at let's say 700 ft AGL and a visibilty of only 1.5 miles being forced to keep the speed above 60 kts and trying to focus on the traffic situation below me but I feel pretty comfy in 700 ft 1.5 miles visability at only 30 kts being able to turn around any time in a helicopter.

 

Well, that's the situation I'm facing almost 75 % of my flying (sometimes even worse than that).

 

Various locations sometimes require various solutions: I'm convinced that if you want to get it done in a proper and professional way than it can only be done by helicopter.

 

I appreciate your concerns flingwing, made me come up with some additional lyrics for my business plan.

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I am familiar with another major market that uses a combination of three aircraft, one helicopter and two fixed-wing for radio traffic watch. That seems to provide an ideal mix for focused attention in the closer-in congested areas where a fixed-wing wouldn't be able to loiter as long as necessary nor be able to stay out of ATC's way (under/in Class B & in Class Ds), and greater speed for the more spread-out outlying areas with the airplanes.
Sounds like a good mix indeed!

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Just as a suggestion,

If FM two-way isn't the way to go and you are looking for more clarity, you may consider microwave down-link depending on whether the station has any receive sites. It's a given for TV but possibly a setup for audio only would also work. I know that the the ENG bird I have been flying 15 years has always gone with microwave for audio clarity as well as stable picture. For receiving, any type of FM radio or even a dedicate IFB receiver to get cues from the producer. I don't know about over there but here in San Diego BMS and NS and Troll are the main providers.

 

Best of luck :D

 

Kyle

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Low and slow is an advantage if you're doing news - reporting on an accident, for instance. But you won't be able to cover the territory in time - radio stations want to hear what's happening all over town, 2 - 3 times minimum during the drives. In a helicopter, you only are going to get around town once. For this an airplane has the advantage - you don't need to be 700' AGL to see slow-moving traffic. In case you're wondering, we run a metro traffic airplane in Minneapolis.

 

These days, if you hear traffic from a helicopter, it's either TV, or an ENG ship doing double-duty (partnership or agreement between the TV station and radio station). Showing traffic reports on TV always amuses me - what's the point, really (and yep, I've done traffic ENG too).

 

I'm not trying to talk you out of your business plan, good on you if you get it going!

 

Fling, that is probably true in smaller markets, but in the bigger markets, it is almost all helicopters, with a few airplanes for the smaller stations.

 

I live in Dallas, and our biggest news radio station has 3 helicopters. The other stations generally have 1 helicopter, but a few have 1 helicopter and 1 airplane (for exactly the reasons you explained).

 

BTW, you're right that many stations split a helicopter. One pilot, and 2 or 3 reporters in the same helo, all reporting the same stuff on different stations. That way they can all say, "we have a helicopter". :)

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Also one other thing to think about, is in the bigger markets most of the radio stations are owned by the same company so you wont be marketing to individual radio stations ie clear channel, jeff pilot, infinity. Also the radiostations might use an individual company for there traffic needs.

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Yeah, same deal here in St. Louis. Helicopters Inc. is the largest ENG company in the country with about 75 helicopters in New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Denver, etc. The three local St. Louis TV stations has a contract with a LongRanger painted up in their colors.

 

They all have multiple people in the back. Some are employed by a traffic monitoring company that collect info from cameras, airplanes, helicopters, and commuters. Then they send out that mass amount of traffic info to their subscribers (all the TV & radio stations).

 

Then they just read that info.....One reporter here in St. Louis used to be on about four different stations. She used a different name on each station and it was the exact same report that she was reading from MetroTraffic.

 

But, yeah, each station likes to give off that idea that they have their own helicopter, their own pilot, and some special technologically advanced traffic monitoring center right there to the left of the news desk. It's the same BS as there "Weather Center" and "Super Nexrad".....they all buy their weather from AccuWeather.

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@ Helopitts, sorry for asking, but what is a "marty radio setup" never heart of it before (might be a language problem in my case).

 

The MARTI that he is referring to is a low end studio quality remote transmitter. Some stations prefer them over using a two-way radio becuase it provides better audio quality. The draw back is that it is only a transmitter and there is no way for the station to talk back to you, so you will still need a two-way radio to talk to the station.

 

I used to do engineering and technical work in the radio business and worked at one time for the shop that maintains the radio gear for both KGO and KCBS in the San Francisco bay area. KGO was Metro Traffic and KCBS was Shadow Traffic, and both Metro and Shadow are now owned by the same parent corporation. Metro liked using the MARTI in the 206 because of the microphone that you could use reproduced the sound of the turbine engine and the rotor blades better than the microphone on the two-way radios that were used in the fixed-wing. Since KGO was paying big bucks for their "Jet Copter 810" they really wanted that sound to be heard by the listener.

 

Both stations had one helicopter and several fixed wing that they would use. The KCBS bird was also used by the CBS TV affiliate in the bay area. The KGO bird is from National Helicopters and I believe the KCBS was from HeliNet. The fixed wing were contracted from local FBO's in the area. I've been flying with both helicopters and the fixed-wing folks as well and there never really seemed to be a preference with one over the other because of speed. Helicopters and fixed-wing alike covered the entire bay area, which is over 60 miles from north to south.

 

Anyway, that's my two-cents.

 

Doug

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