"I got the idea one day driving in on the Hollywood freeway and then it came to me all of a sudden. 'How can we beat the competition? Why, of course. If we could build a news mobile unit in a helicopter we could get over it all, get there first, avoid the traffic, and get to all the stories before anybody in the competition. It'd be a wonderful thing.'"
About This Interview
In his three-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, John Silva (1920-2012) talks about his early interest in television and his desire to get into engineering. He recalls his time as a radar officer during World War II and turning down a job at NBC in New York in order to begin working at an experimental television station in Los Angeles (W6XYZ, which would become KTLA). Silva discusses his early roles as station engineer and technical director, and describes supervising early remote/mobile units. He recounts working with the legendary station manager and engineer Klaus Landsberg and the technical challenges of building the station, including the moving of the transmitter to Mt. Wilson. Silva speaks of operating mobile units and the station's eventual transition to commercial broadcasting as KTLA – as well as the entertainment programming it carried. He discusses the station's coverage of the Kathy Fiscus story, Nevada atomic bomb tests, the breaking of the Baldwin Hills dam, and other station remotes. He then outlines several of his inventions for the mobile units and details the invention for which he is best known, the Telecopter - an airborne mobile unit on a helicopter. He explains how he got the idea for the Telecopter, how it was developed and tested, and its early uses. He then comments on Telecopter usage in the 2000s and what he sees for the future of helicopter news reporting. B-roll includes photos of original KTLA employees as well as early mobile unit trucks and telecopter photos. Karen Herman conducted the interview on October 22, 2002 in Studio City, CA.