Captain Julie leaving the nest

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Thousands of commuters are losing the friendly voice they depended on to get them to work or school on time.

After nearly a decade piloting Chopper 5, Captain Julie Stevens is leaving her fulltime job as the eye in the sky for Fox 29 viewers.

Stevens wants to spend more time with her family and beloved animals.

Julie was born and raised in London, England. She was inspired to become a pilot when she would watch the Concorde fly over her house that stood under the flight path of Heathrow Airport.
Julie began flying for WPTV in 2004 and has seen her share of strange and heartrending stories.

They include the time Africanized bees attacked some goats and the fire rescue personnel trying to help them.

She also vividly remembers providing commentary of the damage after Hurricanes Jeanne, Frances and Wilma struck South Florida. Following Hurricane Katrina she traveled to Mississippi to help storm victims.

During the dry season, she often circled above brush fires that threatened homes and neighborhoods.

She enjoyed getting up in the morning and sharing breaking news with viewers, or showing them how to avoid traffic trouble.

But what she liked the most was flying over the ocean and pointing out marine life. It wasn't unusual for her to spot migrating schools of sharks, frolicking dolphins, lumbering manatees or majestic manta rays.

When she made personal appearances at events such as the Stuart Air Show she said the public always made her feel welcome. She said retired veterans would stroll by to talk about helicopters and viewers would bring their children to speak with her. Many she first saw as youngsters are now teenagers.

What will she miss the most? "People. The great people I've worked with, Rox, John, Glen Keli, just great people to work with."

Most of all she will miss her sidekick, Chopper 5 photographer Johann Hoffend. 

In August of 2009 Captain Julie and Johann helped find two men who were stranded on Lake Okeechobee after their airboat overturned.

They were the first to spot the pair and guided rescuers to them.

Julie and Johann received 'Samaritan Awards' from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

Julie operated a Bell 206 LongRanger. She called it "a great workhorse" that has kept her safe the past nine years.

Julie was a nurse in London and still holds her nursing license. After taking some time off, she plans to go to school to become a legal nurse consultant.
Chopper 5 will still be flying Monday morning to keep viewers informed. While Julie won't be there, you haven't heard  the last of her.

She plans to remain in the area and fill in from time to time.

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