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From the Field
The View from Above
By Victoria Johnson
"Good morning San Diego! It's dark and early and traffic free." And full speed ahead if you're leaving for work when I do, just after 4 in the morning. There isn't any traffic on the roads for my morning drive and usually shortly thereafter. The traffic I deal with is an occasional bird or other aircraft. However, there is quite a bit for the 9 to 5ers of the world. I fly over the traffic created by the morning rush and report what I see. My office is mobile and anywhere from a thousand feet in the air to 10,000 plus, but typically at 1,000-2,000 feet. For the past 2 and a half years, I have worked for Metro Networks, delivering traffic reports every ten minutes and breaking news too, live from Chopper 8 for the San Diego CBS affiliate, KFMB-TV. I also wear a second hat, or in my case, headset, as the photographer, operating the inside and outside cameras. At 5 am, I begin by reporting the traffic, or lack thereof at that hour, and drive times too. After a few reports in the hangar, the pilot powers up the chopper and I jump in, ready to fly for the morning show and can be airborne for a couple hours. I also shoot the sponsorship shots which brings out my creative and adventurous side. I may feature Shamu in his tank at Sea World, planes landing at San Diego International Airport directly below us, or dolphins riding the waves alongside surfers.

What really gets my adrenaline going is covering breaking news. We're usually there first with a bird's eye view chasing police pursuits, and occasionally assisting the police from our vantage point, also covering fires, shootings, stabbings, bank robberies, military homecomings and my all time favorite, cats stuck in trees. We're able to get around quickly, cutting through different airspaces and most of the time, arrive on scene first. We can be at the US Mexico border and then near the Orange county line faster than you can drive, in just under an hour flying about 80 knots. Being a quick thinker is key because if we are over a scene first, I occasionally don't have any information on what were covering. The ability to ad-lib and reporting what you see without a script or any information at all can be challenging at first, but it is a must to be an effective airborne reporter. It must be second nature to run cameras and report either traffic or breaking news simultaneously, occasionally for hours at a time like I experienced during the San Diego Wildfires and La Jolla Landslide in 2007. We see a lot, the good, bad and ugly side of life, bringing information to viewers on what's happening in San Diego, areas to avoid and routes to take either for your work commute or evacuation plan in the case of the fires. My job gives me great satisfaction knowing I can help people get around town more effectively and keep them informed on what they need to know.

About the Author:

Victoria Johnson is a traffic reporter for Metro Networks in San Diego and appears on KFMB-TV.