WTIC-AM has halted the use of its trusty and venerable traffic plane, moving to ground-based technology such as cameras that beam key information to commuters via apps and smartphone data and video.
The Farmington-based CBS news and talk radio station said in an emailed statement it discontinued airborne traffic reports April 3. It's instead using a "system of live cameras that's more accurate, more comprehensive and allows for full online and social media integration."
"Typical aviation coverage only allows us to monitor one specific area at a time, which makes it less relevant in a society of smart phones, cars and roads," the station said in the statement.
More data is available "through the use of this camera system allowing us to monitor real-time travel conditions 24/7," WTIC said.
It did not provide details on the location of cameras or what prompted the shift.
Derrick Hinds, communications manager of the Radio Television Digital News Association, said some stations "have been scaling back" traffic reports from the air over the past decade. He cited the cost of maintaining a helicopter or plane, pilots' pay, fuel and other expenses.
In large media markets, airborne traffic reports may still be common, but elsewhere, "it's gradually been dropping," he said.
Traffic apps such as Waze, Google Maps and state Department of Transportation TV monitors and pavement sensors installed by transportation officials can steer motorists along faster routes and away from potential delays caused by traffic jams or construction.
Unmanned drones that relay aerial photos also are replacing planes and helicopters piloted by humans, Hinds said. Drones are cheaper than traditional alternatives, he said. And no injuries or fatalities result from occasional crashes.
Mike Alan who started flying a red-striped Cessna Cutlass over central Connecticut in 1980, reported for years for WTIC-AM. He was joined by Mark "the Shark" Christopher, who drove WTIC's Car One. Christopher reported for WTIC-FM.
Alan listened to air traffic control at Brainard Airport, monitored traffic below, and communicated with other traffic reporters while reporting to listeners every 10 minutes, according to a 2002 profile in The Hartford Courant.
"For me, this is my office," he said of his plane at the time.
The loss of instantly recognizable on-air traffic reporters that add to a radio station's brand is one drawback of a radio station's decision to quit traffic reporting from above, Hinds said.
"They become an additional personality on the station if you can use them," he said.
Original article can be found here: http://www.courant.com