Crash of Flight 5191

In-the-air expertise pays off on the air

Since he was a boy growing up near Blue Grass Airport, WKYT chief meteorologist T.G. Shuck has had dual interests in aviation and weather.

WKYT viewers have known for years about his weather expertise. Sunday’s crash of Comair Flight 5191 at Blue Grass Airport brought out Shuck’s aviation expertise to help viewers understand the tragedy.

“You ask a lot of pilots, and weather and flying go hand in hand,” Shuck said. “But I’ve never had an opportunity to display the aviation knowledge, for lack of a better term, until yesterday.

“It’s a tragedy. First and foremost, the concern is for the families and what they’re going through. ... But when you’re doing continuous coverage over a number of hours, you try to bring something else to the table that is relevant.”

The weatherman was at the TV station by 8 a.m. Sunday and was frequently on until he left the station at 12:30 a.m. yesterday.

Shuck’s aviation acumen was a revelation to many WKYT viewers and even some co-workers. But anchor Bill Bryant recalled Shuck’s love of flying from years ago, when Shuck considered chucking broadcast news to attend flight school.

“We were aware of his expertise in that area, and it was natural to turn to him,” said Bryant, one of the anchors during Sunday’s crash coverage. “We very quickly saw that it was very beneficial to the viewers.”

Shuck’s interest in aviation started early.

“From my second-story bedroom window, especially in the wintertime when the leaves were off of the trees, I could see the beacon from the airport, next to the tower,” Shuck said. “From the time I could read and write, I always loved airplanes and aviation.”

Shuck has logged many hours in the air with flight instructors and on solo flights in pursuit of a pilot’s license. Money has been the impediment to getting the license, but he hopes to get it.

“Being up and over everything, it’s hard to describe,” he said.

Shuck studied in South Carolina and Kentucky, making him familiar with Blue Grass Airport and the layout of its runways. When he saw the location of Sunday’s crash, he had a sense of what probably happened.

“I felt pretty confident, knowing what I know and given the position of the crash site, what had occurred,” Shuck said. “But you always try to give yourself some wiggle room. ... I didn’t want to get overly speculative.”

In addition to his own pilot experience, he relied on his extensive reading about aviation, including National Transportation Safety Board accident reports.

To analyze the accident, Shuck used some of the same graphic elements he uses in weather broadcasts, illustrating the plane’s possible route to the wrong runway on the screen the way he usually would illustrate the progress of a thunderstorm.

Shuck said that explaining the plane crash was a lot like explaining a tornado to viewers.

“You try to stay on an even keel,” he said, “and explain it in a way that people are going to understand.”

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