After a broadcasting career of 47 years, and anchoring KTLA’s 10 p.m. news since 1975, Hal Fishman died at his Brentwood home on August 7. Hal served as managing editor and commentator for KTLA Prime News.
Fishman was a veteran pilot who set a number of cross-country speed records and delighted in flying his own plane out of Santa Monica Airport every week. In 2005, this writer contacted Hal to introduce the subject of rotary and fixed wing firefighting aircraft as a potential subject for news and commentary. With his enthusiasm for aviation subjects, Hal asked that video of firefighting aircraft be sent to KTLA. Within days he was on the air with an informative commentary. Hal understood the need for effective firefighting aircraft in the U.S. since the grounding of half of the nation’s contract fleet due to safety concerns.
The Wildlife Research Network (a nonprofit, public safety research organization concerned with improving wildfire suppression in California and the U.S.) provided Hal with video of the 20,000-gallon capacity Evergreen 747 Supertanker, the Russian water-scooping Be-200, single engine AT-802 air tanker, 12,000-gallon capacity Tanker 910 and the Erickson S-64E heavy lift helicopter. Hal produced a commentary on each of the firefighting aircraft. He was the only news anchor in Los Angeles to do so.
Recently, Hal called to verify the capacities of a number of firefighting helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Always the professional reporter, he insisted on verifying the facts of a story or commentary.
Hal’s commentaries on the need for permanent deployment of Tanker 910 to fight wildfires in California were instrumental in providing essential information to the public. Following the devastating Griffith Park and Catalina Island wildfires, Governor Schwarzenegger issued an executive order calling for Tanker 910 to be awarded a three-year contract. In a recent commentary, Hal wanted to know why the State of California did not have two CL-415 SuperScooper aircraft to fight the destructive Angora Fire at South Lake Tahoe. These firefighting aircraft could have scooped water from Lake Tahoe and dropped thousands of gallons repeatedly on the Angora Fire before it burned out of control.
With Hal’s passing, we have all lost one of the most articulate and dedicated news anchors in this country. He will be missed.