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July 25, 2006
Chopper, incoming!

LiveCopter_3_2.jpgThwop, thwop, thwop....

That sound you hear up in the Sacramento sky is the new LiveCopter 3, which the folks at KCRA have been teasing to for two weeks now, and finally unveiled today on the air (and on the station’s Web site).

Channel 3’s news division is known for many things - leading in the ratings for, oh, 50 years, for one - but it really self-identifies with its choppers, which it’s employed in one form or another since 1979. Who could ever forget (because, for one thing, they won’t let you) how LiveCopter 3 rescued that dog, Rodeo, from the rooftop during the '97 floods?

Anyway, we’re not very aeronautically inclined, but the shiny new blue-and-gold chopper does look darn impressive. It’s a Eurocopter AS350, touted by the Channel 3 suits as being faster, safer and able to, in the words of news director Dan Weiser, “provide better pictures and more in-depth reports.”

Pilots John Hamilton and Dann Shively were beaming as if it were Christmas Tuesday in a report that amounted to a video press release.

Hamilton pointed to the “three-bladed rotor system,” which gives a “smoother, better shot.” He said the “turbomeca (turbine) engine” boasts “almost 650 horsepowers,” eclipsing the 386 of the old junker the station once used. And a tail cam produces “neat shots while we’re en route and (will) let you see the side of the copter.”

Shively raved over the “gyro-stability camera,” as well as a control panel that looks like a “giant video game.” Plus, it’s quieter inside to enhance audio quality. And there’s a camera mounted in the back that will give folks at home a view of what Shively and Hamilton see as they maneuver around.

You can check out all the bells and whistles - and there are many, trust us - on the station’s Web site.

One thing the pilots didn't point out: The blades on the new copter rotate clockwise, opposite of the old copter.

Channel 3, of course, won't reveal the price tag. But these copters, fully loaded, can go for as much as $3.3 million.

Hmm, wonder how much Channel 13 spent on its traffic megamap?

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