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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

WCPO-TV Ending Chopper 9 Helicopter Reports

Courtesy WCPO-TV
Chopper 9 appeared in WCPO-TV's news open Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Dan Carroll's "Chopper 9" helicopter reports will end in February, as WCPO-TV will rely on less expensive drones for aerial news video.

For six years, Channel 9 anchors have touted the station's unique Chopper 9 coverage, noting that it was the only Cincinnati TV news helicopter. In fact, "Chopper 9" appears in newscast openings flying over downtown.

Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV
WCPO-TV hired Dan Carroll in 2014 when it began leasing its Chopper 9 helicopter.

Channel 9 will not renew its lease for the Bell Jet Ranger, or newsman Carroll, says Jeff Brogan, Channel 9 vice president and general manager.

"With advances in technology, we are confident we can continue to provide aerial coverage with our Sky 9 drone video. Given these changes, Dan’s contract is not being renewed. Dan’s done an excellent job of covering breaking news stories from the Chopper over the last six years," Brogan says.

Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV
Chopper 9's live coverage of a North Bend house fire on the Jan. 7 noon news.

"We will be retiring Chopper 9 next month. We’re proud of the work we have done in covering breaking news and traffic with the chopper," Brogan says.  

Sky 9 debuted in October 2016 as Cincinnati's first news drone. Here's a link to my 2016 story, WCPO-TV's New Drone Next News Battlefield?

Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV
WCPO-TV announced the debut of its Sky 9 done in October 2016.

It's the end of an era – again – for news helicopters.

WCPO-TV was the first Cincinnati TV station to deploy a helicopter in 1967 under legendary news director Al Schottelkotte.  After that, Channels 5, 12 and 19 used helicopters, too. Many local radio stations were using helicopters for traffic reports in 1985, when I started covering local broadcasting.

Channel 9 dropped its 'copter in 2000, citing the huge expense.

In 2013, WCPO-TV returned to the skies by leasing a Bell 206B3 Jet Ranger and hiring Carroll, a TV/radio news veteran who did helicopter reports for WXIX-TV from 1996 to 1999.  The 1980 McNicholas High School graduate and Air Force veteran also did reporting and anchoring at Channel 19 from 1993 to 2000; anchored TV news in Dayton; and freelanced as a WLW-AM talk host.

When Channel 9 ended helicopter reports in July 2000, then General Manager Bill Fee told me that "the helicopter sucked up so much in terms of expenses, and prevented us from doing other things. We think the resources could be better utilized elsewhere. This was basically a financial decision ... It's a wonderful toy. Having the helicopter the morning of the (1999) tornado was a differentiator. But those events happen infrequently ... It just allows us to re-allocate the money ... into people and equipment."

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.