Chopper 10: Celebrating decades of covering Hampton Roads from the air

Chopper 10

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Chopper 10 team has been bringing WAVY viewers aerial shots of Hampton Roads for decades.

This year is the team’s 20th anniversary with this helicopter, which was purchased back in 2000, but we were gathering news high above Hampton Roads long before that.

Vintage Chopper 10, a rented helicopter, didn’t have any high-tech camera equipment mounted to the nose like the current helicopter. Photographers had to sit in the back seat, strapped in with a harness, and shoot video from the window. Classic shots of property along Waterside Drive in 1982 taken from that chopper show a different landscape: no Nauticus, no Town Point Park, no Waterside. The Norfolk waterfront was basically a parking lot.

It has always taken a team of professionals to bring WAVY viewers images from Chopper 10. A photo from early 1980 shows the team then: engineer Lonnie Fisher, photographer Art Kohn, and pilots Keith Smith and Tom Macready. Then there were pilots John Massey and Steve Decker in the cockpit. They were some of the best in the business.

And then there were the photographers that brought the images for WAVY viewers over the years: Mike Ridge, Pat Dowd, Karen Granneman, and Tom Marks, just to name a few. All had excellent camera work while shooting from a moving helicopter.

For decades, WAVY-TV 10 has made a commitment to cover the military from Chopper 10. Coverage has included a variety of shots, such as the USS Nimitz at sea in 1982, the USS John F. Kennedy in the early 1990s, the USS George Washington under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding also in the early 1990s, and a classic shot of the USS Iowa battleship heading out to sea on the Chesapeake Bay over 30 years ago.

Technology and crews change over the years. Television is high definition now. And we have four cameras mounted on board the helicopter. Currently, it’s retired Virginia Beach Police Pilot Scott Abbott in the Chopper 10 cockpit.

“I am honored to follow John Massey and Steve Decker in the cockpit, and carry on their heritage,” Abbott said.

Flying with Abbott these days is photographer Chris Omahen at the camera controls.

Omahen, using state-of-the-art television cameras and live capabilities, brings viewers breaking news and weather shots live from the air.

Chopper 10 has evolved over the decades, and we celebrate another successful year gathering news 600 feet above Hampton Roads.

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