As a beat cop in 1978, Tim Lynn could have never imagined himself in the position he currently holds as a pilot for Welk Aviation as a pilot-reporter for Los Angeles-based ABC affiliate KTLA5 flying the AS350 five days a week over the skies of Los Angeles.
Lynn started his career with a four-year stint in the US Coast Guard, followed by his hiring as a Police Officer for the Culver City Police in California, where he worked as a road officer, in the traffic branch and also in the narcotics division for 12 years. Lynn left Culver City with hopes of eventually getting into the air unit with a move to the Huntington Beach Police Department in 1990. Lynn obtained his private pilot rating in 1985 and worked through his ratings over the years working up to being qualified as a CFII in fixed wing aircraft. In 1997 Lynn was granted his wish of joining the aviation unit.
His calculated move to HBPD seven years earlier had paid off; with the impending retirement of several of the units imminent, it was a natural progression for him to join the aviation unit, being at the time one of only two officers hired into the unit with previous flight experience.
In 2003, Lynn worked a pursuit and was fascinated with the ENG helicopters hovering seemingly motionless above below capturing the action as his helicopter circled below. Lynn wanted more knowledge about the job ENG pilots did and asked to be introduced to Larry Welk of Angel City Air, the pilot of that flight. The two became friends and Lynn spent his off days from Huntington Beach flying with Welk and learning the ins and outs of the ENG business, eventually filling in for other pilots when he was able to around his agency schedule.
In 2004, Lynn decided that he wanted to pursue flying ENG as a career and retired from law enforcement after 26 years to take a job with Angel City Air, flying for KCAL/KCBS9 flying the morning traffic and news coverage for what was to become Welk Aviation. In 2010, Lynn transferred to the job he currently holds as a pilot-reporter for KTLA5 in Los Angeles, based out of Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, CA.
Flying an ENG helicopter in LA is a delicate balance said Lynn- “when flying ENG work, you always have to be a pilot first and reporter second. Some have a hard time keeping their eyes off what the camera sees below when first learning how to be an ENG pilot”. For Lynn, it was hard at the beginning, but once you get used to the workload and how to manage it during each flight, it is just like flying any other role, we just do more talking. All of the pilots that fly ENG in the Los Angeles area have a great working relationship and do a good job of maintaining communications with each other when covering the same news story to make sure they all have adequate separation and keep each other safe in the air.
The role of a pilot in the ENG world is anything but boring due to the diversity of the stories covered each year, but the role also has its dangers just like any other flying role. Lynn was forced to make a precautionary landing in the middle of Hollywood in February of 2012, putting the KTLA5 helicopter that was billowing smoke from under the engine cover down in a parking lot at Hyland and Franklin, just one block from Hollywood Boulevard. Lynn said it bewildered onlookers in a passing TMZ tourist bus as they witnessed the helicopter make its precautionary landing. The cause of smoking engine – captured by another ENG helicopter and broadcast live on television as it made its approach into the streets of Hollywood billowing thick grey smoke; was the result of a plugged oil return line that was unable to be detected in routine preflight of the aircraft due to the positioning of the fault being internal.
During his off time, Lynn likes to spend time with his wife of 38 years, three children, and two granddaughters at their home in Fountain Valley, just outside of Huntington Beach, CA. He has no plans to stop doing what he loves and being the eye in the sky for KTLA5 any time soon, still driving 54 miles each way to keep up his passion for flight.
Lynn’s advice to other pilots that are starting out in the helicopter ENG market is to make sure they find their balance and to always remember to keep their scans going throughout their flights and not become fixated on the news side of the business. Much like law enforcement flying, that kind of advice has served Lynn well through his career, spanning 18 years and 9800 hours of flight time.
Check out the video of Tim’s precautionary landing courtesy of KCAL9 below.
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