Covering Clinton from 1,700 Feet

From CBS News' Fernando Suarez:

When the Clinton campaign unveiled the "Hill-a-copter" as part of a five-day "Every County Counts" tour over Iowa, the first question the press had was 'How will we follow her?'

The pack of about 30 media types who follow Clinton range from television producers and correspondents to print reporters and radio reporters to still photographers all of whom have been tasked with covering Clinton's every move, which means wherever she goes, we go.

Generally, it's easy to pile everyone onto a bus and drive from event to event or to charter a private plane to accommodate the masses. In this case, it was a bit more difficult since we were traveling over Iowa by helicopter.

The solution? To form a press pool. The 5 major networks, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN and FOX News agreed to have a rotation where one producer and one cameraperson would travel with Clinton. The agreement is we that we share all the footage we get and any editorial information we pick up. Print reporters and still photographers do the same thing.

So today, on day 4 of the chopper tour, it was my turn to board the press helicopter. I was both excited and a little nervous given the fact that I was the only person on board to serve as the eyes and ears of all 5 major networks. Whatever she says or does, I'm expected to report back to my colleagues.

We began the day under the impression that we would helo (short for helicopter - as the campaign calls it) to 4 events. But dense fog and low visibility led Secret Service to cancel the flight. But as the day went on, the weather opened up and we were cleared by the agents to chopper to the next event.

The pool (which included the Wall Street Journal's Amy Chozick, Michael Appleton a still photographer from The New York Daily News and me) were moved to the press van which was part of a seven-car motorcade that included two state troopers, three staff vehicles, Clinton's SUV and another SUV with extra Secret Service agents.

We raced down the snowy interstate on our way to Waterloo where upon arrival, Clinton chatted with reporters before boarding her six-seater, Bell 222 helicopter. The press was ushered to one of two helicopters (the third carried some of her staff), and in a matter of minutes we were wheels up, trailing Clinton from a distance.

The ride was surprisingly smooth. We could see Clinton's more powerful and faster helicopter fading way in the distance as we sat and overlooked the snowy planes of Iowa. Just like that, it was done. It was a 40-minute jump to her next event, and although it was quick, it was nice to get a chance to see Iowa from the air, given all the time we've spent over the past few months exploring it by car. Tomorrow, it's back to being a kid on the bus on her final day traveling via "Hill-a-copter."

In case you're wondering, the ride isn't free. All of our respective networks pay thousands of dollars to cover presidential candidates across the country. We pay for our seat on the bus, in this case our seat on the chopper.