Osage SkyNews 6 HD Pilot Shares Secret For Flying Close To A Tornado Safely

Friday, April 1st 2016, 6:04 pm
By: News On 6

Osage SkyNews 6 HD pilot Will Kavanagh and photojournalist Michael Woods gave Oklahomans an exclusive view of the tornadoes that touched down Wednesday night. 

Many people have taken to social media to ask us how they could get so close to the tornadoes in a safe way. Here's how Kavanagh explains what they did:

I really thought it was going to fall apart. It's like it took a deep breath.  And then all of a sudden over north Tulsa. 

3/30/2016: Related Story: VIDEO: Tornado Touches Down In Owasso

I kind of knew something was going to happen, and then like I said, it took that deep breath and we had that tornado.

Part of my military training is risk management.  You're going to manage the risks that you're exposed to up there. You're always trying to manage that safe distance from a tornado but yet stay close enough to get good pictures.

We had very stable air. I was able to stay very close.  I was a half mile to 3/4 of a mile - close - and we were able to get those really defined, good definition, high contrast type of pictures.

Some tornadoes, I have to stay 2 or 3 miles away just because the air is very unstable and we get kicked around a lot in this aircraft.

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I try to stay east or southeast, and try to work that corner there.  I don't want to get too far off the stone, er storm when it's going that way because that's where a lot of lightning and hail is produced.

Military gives me the 101, but Travis and Dick have given me the upper level courses in that. Always fly smart, never fly scared. Military training teaches us to get away from these storms. Don't fly to them, fly away or get down and don't fly! So sometimes I'm fighting my military training to get up there and get around it.

Primary consideration is not only my life but the photojournalist's life in the back. That's my primary consideration is to fly this aircraft. Fly it so we can survive and live to tell a story another day, but also we want to be able to get up there and provide accurate, informed information so others on the ground can find safety as well.

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I'm in awe of what mother nature's is showing me.  The display that mother nature - the power that mother nature can put out in a tornado is just - I'm in awe of it.

I'm also worried or terrified for all those on the ground because I can see how much force, especially up there in the atmosphere still there, and how much force it's going to exert on the ground. And not to get caught up in the terror or in the awe but stay relative to what I'm doing right now, so I can stay safe."

You can get too close, but only from a camera point of view - more than from a safety point of view. That's what we were doing on Wednesday night.  We were so close, all you had was tornado from side to side on the screen.

Back up, be able to give perspective, zoom in and show some of the city and all that so people have perspective of where the tornado's going to go and where it's been.

It's directives. And, we don't look at each other.  We're not looking for acknowledgment. I'm looking outside. He's looking at the camera, and it takes both of us to do what we do.

Our goal is to go up there and to inform the public so they can find safety.  We want Tulsa to be safe and I'm honored to have people think that we're getting that done for them. 

The emotions do take you up and down and you can't get wrapped up in either one. Never panic, trust your training. So when we're up there, I'm just looking at what we gotta do now. 

Once you panic, you stop thinking and that's the worst thing we can do in the air is panic and stop thinking, 'cause that's when all bad things happen.

I will tell you the most exhilarating flying that I have is is to fly with the tornadoes. Beauty and terror - all in the same minute.

I'm a very happy man when I'm up there flying. So don't look at me as being anything more than a lucky pilot.