Gridlock Guy: McCarthy lone female voice in male-dominated profession

For 17 years hers has been the lone continuously heard female voice flying above Atlanta’s roadways. In a male dominated profession, she has kept up with the fellas like no one else in the industry. Her name is Kim McCarthy, but you probably know her by her full name, Kim McCarthy Skyplane. She has become a fixture on Atlanta airwaves currently providing traffic reports for News 95.5 and AM750 WSB, B98.5 and WSB-TV.

In the process she was become one of the most recognizable voices on the radio.

McCarthy started reporting Atlanta traffic in 1997. While attending broadcasting school she was offered an internship to report on traffic conditions by a local company that provided a traffic service for radio and television stations.

“I said ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ I got lost on I-285 last week,” McCarthy said remembering her foray into the traffic reporting world.

She started doing traffic reports for WGST being trained in the helicopter by legendary traffic reporter Keith Kalland.

“I learned the roads by flying in the chopper,” McCarthy said.

In addition to her traffic reporting, McCarthy started to Deejay at now defunct radio station Z93 using the on-air name “Zena on Z93.”

As many in the business do, McCarthy left the business briefly to pursue a more lucrative career in the corporate world. But radio never left her heart. She returned to the airwaves after Sept. 11, 2001.

“September 11th changed they way I thought about life. It really did,” McCarthy said. “I thought I need to be doing something I love. Life is too short. Radio was my thing. I was hooked.”

She was quickly hired by Metro Networks, another company that provides traffic reports to radio stations. There she was quickly installed in the “skyplane” flying high above Atlanta traffic while Captain Herb Emory patrolled the skies in the WSB SkyCopter. Emory quickly started to utilize McCarthy during WSB’s “Triple Team Traffic” reports, and the rest, as they say, is history. For ten years McCarthy flew in the skyplane and Emory’s unique on-air style made it seem that her full name was Kim McCarthy Skyplane.

“Oh, I love it (the name),” McCarthy said. “Captain Herb always tried to give me a nickname and they never stuck, but Kim McCarthy Skyplane stuck.”

The skyplane has since been grounded, but McCarthy continues to provide coverage from the chopper. The tutelage from both Kalland and Emory is something McCarthy treasures to this day.

“Keith taught me how to be an airborne reporter and how to be a reporter, because I was just getting into radio. He really took his time with me,” McCarthy said of Kalland.

It was the years with Emory though, that McCarthy said made her the traffic reporter that she is now.

He helped me get better. He would challenge me. He made me think on my feet better,” McCarthy said of Emory. “He always instilled in me the sense of that we are doing this for other people, that we are helping people. That’s why we do what we do and that’s why we love what we do.”