Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Sky 5 Retrospective

Posted July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sky 5!  What an incredible journey you've made over the last 30 Years!   I remember your diaper day. I was working as news director for WRAL FM and the North Carolina News Network. WRAL General Manager John Greene invited me to do a series of voice promos for the craft. “Look up for Sky Five!”   Yes, that was my voice.

After joining the television news department in 1984 I had the pleasure of frequently flying Sky 5. My environmental news beat had me flying to the coast several times each week including that wonderful trip with Walter Cronkite that I mentioned in a blog last week. One of my all-time favorite trips was a summer sunrise journey up the coast where we videotaped each North Carolina lighthouse. The views were stunningly beautiful. On the other end of the spectrum we once landed on the ridge of Mt. Mitchell one warm January day to observe the devastating impact of acid rain and ozone pollution. That same trip we flew into Tennessee following the trail of industrial pollution to some huge smokestacks.

Another memorable trip was to the mountains of NC one early December to do a story on Christmas tree farming. We flew into a beautiful snow storm that coated the hills of Avery County. What a glorious landscape!

Photographer Jay Jennings, Pilot Steve Wiley and I also had a memorable trip near Beaufort covering a Greenpeace protest. We opened the story with a cinematic sweep of wild horses and then dissolved to a giant oil platform erected by the environmental protest group.

I can’t begin to count the times we would fly to the coast and Steve would drop off a photographer and me to work on a news story. It never failed. Some kind resident would always come by and pick us up and take us where we needed to go. I used to call them “angels of the road.” Once on what seemed to be the coldest day of winter I was dropped off on a tiny island near Nags Head to do a live shot on the re-opening of the Bonner Bridge. The wind almost knocked me over. But photographer Art Howard and I managed to make the broadcast.

Once while working late on a news story I realized I wouldn’t be able to make my speaking engagement at a Lillington church. No problem! It was Sky Five to the rescue. I was dropped off in dramatic fashion in the front yard of the church with two minutes to spare. Church members still talk about that trip today!

I am extremely grateful for the tremendous work of Pilot Steve Wiley over all these years! Steve is an awesome pilot and wonderful traveling companion.

What are your favorite memories of Sky Five? Please share!


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  • New York Yankee Aug 3, 2009

    Hi Bill,

    Sorry I am a little late...but here are some pictures I have taken of Sky 5 in the past;

    The hazy pictures I took while flying traffic watch with my friend. The other was the day that Tropical Storm Ivan came through and damaged the terminal and flipped planes over at RDU.

    I, myself, am a pilot. I always enjoyed seeing Sky 5 come in and refuel at Johnston County, JNX.

    Steve Wiley is one lucky guy. =) Any way you could hook me up with a tour?


  • bleslie Jul 31, 2009

    That would have been Steve Wiley. Frank Beale was the pilot prior to Steve's arrival.

  • lefty-from-Cary Jul 31, 2009

    Sometime around 1990-92, I took a ride with a friend from WWW airport near Angier; Sky 5 dropped in for some radio maintenance, if I recall correctly. The pilot at the time, don't recall his name, let me look around the cockpit... way cool... Thanks!

  • cagerat42 Jul 31, 2009

    I can remember in high school during football season in the mid-80's.Our football team was ingagged in some pretty big games and Sky 5 would fly in with Bob Holiday or Jay Jennings to cover the games.I believe Tom Sutter referred to Jay as the Jelly Roll during those broadcast.Tom also flew in for a pep rally when we had an Extra Effort Award winner.

  • truthinadvertising Jul 31, 2009

    Probably seeing sky 5 come in for a couple of hs football games/extra effort awards back when I was in high school.

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