They’re up again.
For the second time since May 2012, J.D. Scott, owner of Hawkeye Helicopter, Ottawa, is teaming with Tusker Television, Berkeley, Calif., to film aerial shots of historic state landmarks for the Smithsonian Channel series “Aerial America.” Scott, along with Toby Beach, director and executive producer of the show, Tom Miller, aerial cinematographer, and Nadine Laule, field producer, departed from the Ottawa Municipal Airport Friday morning northbound for Nebraska.
“Last year, we rigged up [at the Ottawa Airport] and flew through Kansas and Oklahoma,” Scott, a Pomona High School graduate and pilot for the trip, said. “We film about 30 hours per state, and they condense it down into a one-hour show.”
This time, the crew is flying on a two-week trip through Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, shooting from sun-up to sun-down. Along the way, they will be filming specific areas, including Mount Rushmore, the 73rd annual Sturgis Bike Rally in Sturgis, S.D., and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Attempts to shoot in Nebraska earlier this year were stymied by the weather, Beach said.
“Aerial America” is a program that began in 2010 and focuses on each of the 50 states’ history and landmarks from an aerial perspective. Each state has its own hour-long show. The aerial shots are taken from a $500,000 Cineflex HIDEF camera mounted under the nose of the helicopter and controlled by Miller inside. Tusker Television has about 10 states left to film and should wrap shooting the series by the end of 2014, Beach said.
The trip that began Friday marks the start of the second project Beach, Miller and Scott have worked together. Beach was impressed the first time he filmed in the area with Scott.
“We just think Hawkeye Helicopter is a great company, and J.D. is a terrific pilot,” Beach said. “Kansas was a great show. [There were] a lot of surprises here in Kansas.”
While the Kansas and Oklahoma shows already aired, Beach said, the Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota shows most likely will air in the first or second quarter of 2014.
Scott, whose Ottawa company recently was recommend by the Ottawa Airport Advisory Board to serve as the local airport’s fixed-base operator, is piloting the crew in his Bell 206B Jet Ranger and said that he enjoys being a part of the production.
“I like getting to go to different parts of the states where I wouldn’t normally get to go,” Scott said. “When we shot in Texas, we spent an hour and a half over the Kennedy assassination sight in Dallas.”
Scott has previous experience with aerial cinematography. He was a pilot for aerial shots for the 2010 film “Red,” as well as a pilot for shots for a Discovery Channel series.
Having worked with about 15 pilots from across the United States, Beach said, finding the right person for the job is essential.
“We like to use pilots who have a specialty in the geography in the area,” Beach said. “You want a pilot who is comfortable with flying at low levels, even near the trees.”
Getting a unique view of America is part of the draw of the project, Beach said.
“To be navigating in that space above where we are in our normal lives is an amazing experience,” he said. “It is amazing how much of a state’s history is in the land. What this project hopefully does is bring all that to life.”
“Aerial America” airs Sunday nights on the Smithsonian Channel, Beach said, with episodes also available for paid download online.