The Seven and Nine TV networks have ended their own helicopter operations for electronic news gathering (ENG) with the start of a combined national contract for shared helicopter news operations in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Camden Airport’s United Aero Helicopters began operating three AS350B3 Squirrels, previously used by Nine in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, to capture aerial footage in those locations on September 12.
Two AS350B2 Squirrels, used by Seven in Brisbane and Melbourne, will now cover the news in Adelaide and Perth.
The new contract represents an end of an era for the two rival networks, given all of the helicopters will be repainted in white with a dark navy blue tailboom generic colour scheme with no network branding.
Separately, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is also looking to contract out its aerial ENG capability around the country through a request for tender on the government’s AusTender website which closed on August 3.
The ABC said it had owned and operated helicopters in Sydney and Melbourne for a number of years and is also expanding to a cost-effective national aerial news gathering solution using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from bases in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The ABC’s tender request brief said it specifically needed helicopter and fixed wing services for aerial footage only in metropolitan and regional areas including coverage of major natural disasters such as bushfires, floods and cyclones; regional and metropolitan coverage where the conveyance of a news gathering crew is required and selective coverage of news and current affairs issues in regional areas.
The ABC currently operates a leased helicopter in Sydney and uses an ad-hoc helicopter in Melbourne.