‘The Last of a Dying Breed,’ KCRA Chopper Pilot Dann Shively Retires

By Andrew Gauthier 

Longtime KCRA helicopter pilot Dann Shively is retiring after three decades of giving viewers a bird’s eye view of breaking news.

Shively, 65, joined the Sacramento NBC-affiliate in 1972 as a producer and, after getting his helicopter pilot license “on a lark,” he began flying for KCRA in 1979 when it became the fist station in Northern California to own a news chopper.

Shively flew the KCRA chopper through the 80s in addition to working as a reporter and morning anchor for the station. As rivals debuted their own news helicopters over the years, KCRA was successful in distinguishing its aerial news reporting because the station had a personality to go along with it.


“I think I’m one of the last of a dying breed, the pilot-reporter,” Shively told TVSpy recently via email. “There are only a handful of pilots doing this around the country and with helicopters disappearing from stations everyday the number is dropping as well.”

During his time with KCRA, Shively was at the center of some of the biggest stories of the era, including the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and last year’s arson fire at the Roseville Galleria. (Shively took some time away from the station in the 90s before returning in 2001).

For the last several years, KCRA has been the only station in the Sacramento market with a dedicated news chopper and many stations around the country are scaling back their aerial operations, often sharing a helicopter with competitors. Although he certainly understands the economic realities of the business having been at it for so long, Shively believes that the value of a news helicopter should not be overlooked.

“The helicopter, as we used it, was a first strike tool,” Shively explained. “When something big happened we could usually get there first and give a perspective none of the competition could.  And our viewers came to know this.”

Though he is concerned about the future of local news helicopters, Shively, a proud grandfather, says that he’s trying to focus on the positive.

“There are many changes occurring in TV news, some not for the better,” Shively said. “But I look back on the experience as a great adventure.”

[Photo via Sacramento Bee]