Veteran helicopter pilot and traffic reporter Johnny Rowlands is the Chief Pilot of KMBC’s NewsChopper 9. Johnny’s traffic reports can be heard every weekday on “FirstNews” between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., and on “KMBC 9 FirstNews” weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on KCWE. You’ll also find him covering breaking news in the 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news on Channel 9. Johnny was a radio disc jockey in the mid-1970s, and started his television career on Channel 9 in the late ’70s as a cohost of the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. He was a member of the original “FirstNews” team in the late ’80s as Kansas City’s first television airborne traffic reporter, piloting his Cessna over the Kansas City morning rush hour. In 2003, he took over the controls of NewsChopper 9, and since that time has been providing up to the minute traffic information getting commuters around traffic trouble spots and drive-time delays.
As one of few television helicopter pilots who is also an on-camera reporter, Johnny brings a unique perspective to Channel 9’s news coverage. He captures spectacular video of some of Kansas City’s biggest stories. News outlets around the world broadcasted his airborne video of the house that exploded on the South side during a police shootout and a still frame was included in a Readers Digest story detailing the incident. It’s not all traffic, news and weather coverage, though. Each spring Johnny takes the show on the road and lands NewsChopper 9 at dozens of elementary schools, showing highlights of his tornado coverage and giving safety tips on how to survive a tornado. In the past three years, Johnny has delivered his safety message to nearly 30,000 school children in the greater Channel 9 viewing area.