Chopper safety had been challenged4/02/2000 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Two weeks before KTTV(TV) Los Angeles' SkyFox2 helicopter crashed last week, the bargaining organization representing on-air kttv staff notified the station that employees were concerned with its safety.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists filed a grievance March 9 saying kttv reporters were being sent to work in possibly unsafe aircraft. Phil Arno, the photographer injured in the crash, is an AFTRA member.
Kttv released a statement last week saying, "Kttv agrees with AFTRA and the people it represents on the recognition and enforcement of all helicopter safety procedures. To that end, kttv requested earlier this month that Helinet thoroughly evaluate its ongoing safety policies, while the station also commissioned its own independent review."
Helinet leases two news helicopters to kttv. According to Vice President Dave Corsello, maintenance is contracted out to Rotor Craft Support. "Safety is first and foremost to us," he says. "Anybody who knows us, knows we don' t cut corners when it comes to safety."
Rotor Craft did not return calls by press time.
AFTRA filed the grievance, says AFTRA Los Angeles Local' s Broadcast Department Director Gerry Daley. "to ensure that the ultimate decision of when to fly is not made by news management or helicopter companies with a financial stake in the situation but by those people doing the work."
At KCBS-TV Los Angeles, which employs Aaron Fitzgerald, the photographer/reporter who helped rescue the crash victims, News Director Roger Bell says he relies on the people who fly to determine when it is safe to go up. "Aaron is a pilot himself. If he ever came to me and said I think it' s not a good idea to go up, he wouldn't go up."