Dave Clanton is a quiet, unassuming, dedicated man. His exceptional knowledge of motion picture cameras and film was a tremendous asset to Jefferson Productions' Film Department.



People | Marty Lambert

The Charlotte News - November, 1984

Marty Lambert aloft as Jeff Pilot

Marty Lambert,  alias Jeff Pilot, banks  his plane over downtown Charlotte on an afternoon traffic flight. Staff photo by Mark Sluder

Jeff Pilot

Someone up there is watching out for you in rush hour

By Lola Pendergast
Staff writer

From the air, WBT traffic reporter Jeff Pilot breaks up traffic jams and rescues student pilots in distress. Cars move because he says so.

On the ground, he wears button down shirts, carries a slight paunch and is wild about two little people who call him daddy.

Whether he's Super Flyboy or Superdad to two toddling girls, in the air or on the ground, he is the pulse of city commuter traffic. Using the Jeff Pilot pseudonym instead of his real name, Marty Lambert, he is the city's only airborne traffic reporter.

Take a recent Thursday, shortly before 7 a.m.:

“We've got to be sure we've got an engine,” joked the 28-year old former disc jockey before buckling up for a morning of traffic reporting.

“We've already got prob-lems on Old Pineville,” he notes, plotting his morning course in that direction.“Somebody clipped a telephone pole and the wires are hanging real low.”

At 7:14a.m., inbound Char-lotte got its first taste of upcoming traffic problems. “Here we go,” he said, adjusting oversized earphones to keep out the engine's drone. He was on.

“Independence Boulevard is the main problem this morning,” he warned, his crisp announcer's voice coming off as a crackle on hundreds Of Charlotte car radios. “In the 6500 block of South Boulevard, you've got low­hanging power lines. Eighteen wheelers beware.”

Before the broadcast was out, matchbook­sized cars were peeling out of the jams and were bound for alternate routes.

“Jeff Pilot is a household word," he said. “He's a friend. He's a credible source of information.”

Nine years ago, though, Jeff Pilot—short for WBT's parent company Jefferson Pilot Broadcasting Co. with the intended play on the word “Pilot”—was perceived as a devil­may-care, carousing young reporter.

He flew, seat-of-his-pants, into traffic reporting - no real preparation, no nose for traffic news. He did the job, but usually was biding time until an inside job at the station opened. Four different Jeff Pilots flew in four years.

“Now Jeff Pilot is respon-sible,” the present model says. “He has a family. He has values.”

Today he reads traffic volume reports and tracks driving patterns. He quotes statistics: how many cars travel Independence Boulevard in a given hour, then how many the six­lane road was built to handle.

From 1,200 feet, he sees when traffic lights are out, cars are stalled and accidents are about to happen.

“You see them hauling buggy and then they stop all of a sudden,” he said. “You just hope they'll stop, but... Well, unfortunately, my job is after the fact in a lot of instances.”

Like a Saturday morning television character, Jeff Pilot sometimes is the startled super hero in a hot situation.

Once when an ambulance driver was lost,the traffic reporter flew above, instructing him to turn right and left to an accident scene.

He even saved a student pilot's life when the woman, who'd never flown at night, was panicky as darkness fell.

Coolly he led her to the Monroe airport, talked her through an attempted landing and go-around, then to safety.

Because of his familiarity with the city, people ask him to join city planning committees and government organizations. But he'd rather be on top of things.

“I hesitate about getting into politics,” he said. “I belong up in an airplane where it's safe. It's a lot safer here than on that ground.”

Marty with plane

Marty then...

“Raised most of my life in and around Charlotte, I went to Olympic High and to Central Piedmont Community College, then to technical school in Atlanta to get my FCC license. Worked in Eastern NC: WCPS-AM Middle of the road Afternoons; then WKTC-FM Country Mornings, Tarboro, NC. (same company); then to Charlotte for WIST-AM (Mornings/PD); then to WAAK-AM Dallas, NC (Mornings/PD); then on to WBT-AM.

“I worked there from 1977 through late 1988 as the voice of "Jeff Pilot" .... (returned in 1990 for a short stint) for WBT-AM , WBCY-FM (WLNK-FM), WBTV.)

“In 1988 I left WBT to work with Traffic Patrol Broadcasting, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, NC.

“Returning to Charlotte the next year, I went to work with the DL Phillips Company, Charlotte Merchandise Mart. (And continued to do voice-over and narration and some part-time on-air on the side).

“In 1994 I reconnected with John Boy & Billy at WRFX-FM and was asked to do syndication for their network.”

Marty today

Marty today

“Still in Charlotte, currently [May 2012] I'm Director of Affiliate Sales for Premiere Radio Networks, a division of Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, representing great shows like John Boy and Billy, Bob & Tom, Big D & Bubba, Ryan Seacrest, Steve Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, 80 products in all.”