For the past 25 years, Detour Dan (aka Dan Beach) has patrolled Valley skies in the back seat of Yellow Thunder, a four-seat, single engine Cessna 172 airplane, delivering traffic reports for KTAR 92.3 FM. He didn’t set out to be a “traffic guy,” and was hesitant to accept the Detour Dan moniker – given to him at the outset of his career by a program director – because ultimately he had his heart set on becoming a sportscaster. But the nickname stuck, and Beach says it was the best thing that ever happened to him. The affable eye-in-the-sky reporter has recently gone from airborne to “chairborne” at the request of the station, but he’s still got your back. While he misses the bird’s-eye view of traffic and the excitement of a high-speed pursuit, Detour Dan says the station has given him all the tools he needs to broadcast from the ground.
What was your Detour Dan persona like when you first started?
I was terrible at first. I wrote down everything I was going to say word for word. One day I wasn’t ready and Pat McMahon was the host at that time and said, “Detour Dan, where are you flying? And what are you looking at?” I said, “As a matter of fact, I’m in Paradise Valley and I’m probably looking right down at your backyard, Pat.” At that moment, I shed all the discomfort and all of the stuffiness and just became me and that’s what worked. That was about three to four months into it. I was so bad they were actually auditioning people in the plane with me while I was on the air.
Why aren’t you flying anymore?
I can’t put words into the mouth of my employer, but they came to me and said, “It’s time to land that plane.” Nobody ever said we can’t afford it anymore. Nobody ever said it was too dangerous. Nobody ever said there are too many variables. They said “We’ve done some research and believe that it’s not going to make a difference. People listen to our traffic for you, not for your airplane.”
How are you covering traffic now?
My main source, even in the airplane, is Total Traffic (totaltraffic.com). I’m looking at Twitter and ADOT cameras. I’ve got the news department at KTAR talking back and forth with me. I’m listening to police scanners and I’m able to watch websites that I never knew existed. The Phoenix Fire Department also has a website with nothing but accidents and tree fires.
What was one of your most harrowing moments?
During a monsoon we got between two storm cells and started diving for no good reason. We got into a downdraft and the pilot felt he had no other choice than to accelerate as fast as the plane could possibly go and climb out of it. It worked, but let me tell you, those rooftops were pretty close when we pulled up and started climbing back out of it. The guy in the front seat – he never flew again after that.
What made you want to keep flying after that experience?
I felt like it was part of the job. I won’t fly on big planes, though, because I don’t have control. Up in the little planes, whatever I say goes. If I want to go home, we’re going home. If I want to land right now, we’re landing right now. I was in charge. In a big airplane, you take a seat and be quiet. I go everywhere by car. I’ve driven 2,000 miles more times than I care to admit.
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