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.
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.
"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?
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."