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John D. Silva papers

 Collection 0112-MMC

John D. Silva (1920-2012) was the chief engineer for KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, the first commercial television station on the West Coast. He designed many innovative ways to make live, remote television – covering breaking news and special events – easier and faster, including inventing the first news helicopter (which he dubbed the "Telecopter") in 1958. Silva won his first Emmy in 1970 for electronic newsgathering and his second in 1974 for developing the telecopter. He served as director of engineering research at KTLA from 1976 until 1978, before retiring to become an electronics design consultant.

Types of materials include correspondence, notes, photographs, magazine and newspaper article clippings, brochures, reports, computer disks, and audiovisual material.


  • 1946-2012

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit, so we may determine the proper steps to be taken.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


13.5 Linear Feet (8 record storage boxes -2 of audiovisual material; 3 Hollinger boxes; 1 loose oversized item.)

1 Items (Oversize sketch book)

6 Videocassettes : U-matic

11 Film Reels ; 5 16mm film reels 2 8" film reels 1 35mm film reel 2 8" film reels 1 6.5" film reel

Content Description

John D. Silva (1920-2012) was the chief engineer of KTLA-TV in Los Angeles and invented the telecopter, a helicopter outfitted with a live TV camera, in 1958. Silva won two Emmy awards including one in 1974 for his invention of the telecopter. The collection consists of original footage, diagrams, sketches, photographs, magazines, maps, and journals related to Silva's invention of the telecopter and his career at KTLA.


This collection is organized as three series.

Series 1
Papers, circa 1920, 1946-2012, and undated
Series 2
Photographs, circa 1947-2002
Series 3
Audiovisual Material, circa 1920-2012, 1975 and undated

Processing Information

A dozen photos and a folder of clippings were removed due to mold damage. Photographs are stored separately for preservation purposes.

Guide to the John D. Silva papers
Processed by Jen Wachtel.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2017-10-17: Finding aid reviewed and minor updates made by Joanne Archer
  • 2021-07-16: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742