Although the AA Roadwatch Sky Patrol was only in action for about 5 years, from 1994 to 1999 it became such a feature that anyone who has ever worked with AA Roadwatch will tell you that they are always asked – ‘Did you go up in the helicopter?’
The “Eye-in-the-Sky” was originally manned by Electric Eddie but during the Roadwatch years Bob Conway took the reins and it became the AA Sky Patrol. Bob looks back on his time in the sky with great nostalgia. At the time he worked with RTE 2FM and he took to the sky every morning in the winter months, and in both the morning and evenings during spring and summer.
The AA Sky Patrol generally flew over the Dublin area, but also travelled to many major events including the Galway Races, the Circuit of Ireland Rally and Slane concerts.
The helicopter was also on hand during some major traffic incidents, Bob remembers specifically an incident on the N4 at Edgeworthstown where a tankard overturned and exploded. Incidents such as these caused chaos for motorists and it was a great benefit to have someone on the scene, guiding and helping drivers.
Although the helicopter did afford AA Roadwatch some magnificent views of the roads, it was very much of its time. Eventually new cameras all over Dublin’s city centre and suburbs meant that there was now a more effective and accurate way to see traffic, and one which was not affected by the bad weather that frequently meant the helicopter could not fly. Mobile phones also arrived in great numbers allowing commuters to text AA Roadwatch directly. Time was up for the Sky Patrol and so unfortunately the helicopter was grounded forever in 1999.
But those ‘eye-in-the-sky’ days are fondly remembered by all who worked in Roadwatch including Trevor Keegan who says, “It was fantastic fun and I would gladly revisit it any day.”
Ruth Scott said of her time in the chopper during the summer of 1997, “I’ll never forget the amazing views of Dublin city centre on summer mornings. One regret I have is that I never though to bring a camera, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.”
Photo courtesy of Bill Teasdale