by Chris Conte
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It is no secret that helicopters play a uniquely integral part in the way television news operations bring viewers information, but pilots know there is some small amount of uncertainty every time they take off and land.
"You accept the risk, you trust in your maintenance and equipment and in your abilities," explained seasoned pilot Tad Stuart who flies Sky5 HD for NewsChannel 5.
Tad spent 10 years flying helicopters in Iraq and knows the risks associated with flying. He was involved in a serious crash that broke his back in 2007.
Whenever he sees a crash like the one that happened involving a television news helicopter in Seattle Tuesday, he said he's reminded of that danger.
"There is definitely a risk everyday but I tell my wife you can't worry about it; if I was a truck driver there's more truck accidents where drivers are losing their lives than helicopter accidents," the Sky5 pilot added.
In Seattle, the chopper was taking off from a helipad at KOMO-TV station when it went down, landing in the middle of busy street.
Tad said taking off in a downtown area with tall buildings poses unique challenges as a pilot.
"The winds tend to swirl in a downtown environment so you have to be watching out for that as well as any obstacles, wires, other buildings," he said.
KOMO identified the pilot as Gary Pfitzner. The other man killed was Bill Strothman, a former longtime KOMO photographer who was working for the helicopter leasing company.