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"It's almost business as usual for pilots"



Sunday, December 16, 2001

It's almost business as usual for pilots 
By AL BRUMLEY
The Dallas (TX) Morning News 


Last week it looked as though it would be months before any traffic
helicopters or planes took to the skies in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.


Turns out, some were already up, and a lot more have begun flying since
then. 

Traffic Pulse Networks, which supplies Susquehanna and Radio One
stations with traffic reports, has been in the air "going on three weeks
now," regional operations manager Tom Corbett said Wednesday. 

Two weeks ago, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman William Shumann
said that aviators could apply for waivers that would allow them to fly,
but that those waivers were only good for one day. Mr. Shumann
acknowledged last week that he might have been mistaken about that. 

And while everyone - even the FAA - admits to confusion, the bottom line
seems to be that apart from more security and more hoops to jump
through, traffic pilots and reporters are back in business. 

Sort of. 

Mr. Corbett says that the main difference between flying now and before
Sept. 11 is that the aircraft aren't allowed to hover over or circle an
accident or crime scene. "But we can look at it and ask for permission
to make a U-turn and then fly over it again," he said. 

Mr. Shumann said aircraft aren't allowed to hover or circle because the
controllers and the military "don't know what you might be doing." 

"Basically, you have to keep moving," he said. "The FAA is continuing to
work with other federal agencies to ease the current flight
restrictions, and as to when that would happen or the specifics, I can't
say, because I don't know." 

Mr. Corbett said his aircraft are able to cover "most of the Dallas-Fort
Worth metroplex," although there's much more communication with the
towers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Love Field. 

Monty Cook, aviation director for Metro/Shadow Broadcasting, said that
company began flying Dec. 7.Metro is owned by Westwood One and supplies
traffic to 37 stations in town. Mr. Cook said he's been pleasantly
surprised at how little the FAA restrictions have affected the traffic
reporting. 

Apart from the no-hovering rule, he said, another difference is that
pilots have to file a flight plan before taking off. Once in the air,
though, they can contact the nearest tower and request a change of
direction. So if the traffic reporter learns about a wreck 5 miles to
the south, the helicopter is still able to change routes and fly over
it. 

Also, Mr. Cook said, the airspace in which pilots must stay in contact
with the tower has grown dramatically. 

And if you're wondering how they've been covering traffic all this time
without being in the air, well, Mr. Cook said that's never been a
problem. 

What with reporters on the street, roadside cameras, telephone tip
lines, and regular police checks, it's possible to put together an
accurate picture of the traffic situation without being in the air. 

"What flying gives us is not the accuracy, but it's definitely an
expediency factor," Mr. Cook said. "It's nice being able to have the
information as quick as you want it."


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