'I have witnessed things that would have taken 15 lifetimes to see': Chopper 5 Pilot Ken Melchior retires after 25 years at KSTP-TV

Kevin Doran
Updated: January 08, 2021 10:10 AM
Created: January 07, 2021 07:00 PM

After bringing KSTP viewers to the scene of almost every major news story in Minnesota over the past 25 years, longtime Chopper 5 pilot Ken Melchior is retiring.

He's very proud of the aircraft he spent so much time in.

"Chopper 5 is French-built," Melchior said. "It's Aérospatiale AS350, also known as the A-Star. And it's very powerful, very fast. Kind of like a Ferrari of helicopters. And it is perfect for using it for television news."

He and Chopper 5 changed how Minnesotans watch the news.

"I have witnessed things that would have taken 15 lifetimes to see," he said.

Chopper 5 debuted during the devastating Red River flood of 1997.

"We had just finished building out the machine with camera and broadcast system," he said. "And it was going on its first assignment. So off we went to Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. It was a historic flood. A 500-year flood."

After that, Melchior's reporting from Chopper 5 gave KSTP viewers a bird's-eye view of news as it was happening. There's no better example of his professionalism than the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis in 2007.

"Yeah, that's kind of the 400-pound gorilla in the room," Melchior said. "We were the first pictures, live pictures, coming out of there with voice. And we were there 12 minutes after it happened. So the things we were seeing were incredible."

In retirement, Melchior plans to spend more time with his family and build and race sports cars. He may be giving up aviation but he still has the need for speed and adventure.

"Flying Chopper 5 for KSTP has been the most rewarding experience of my life," Melchior said. "And the reason is that it put me in the forefront of everything that is major happening in the state of Minnesota."

To see more of Melchior talking about the biggest stories of his 25-year career flying Chopper 5, click on the box above.

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