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June 9, 1959
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
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June 9, 1959
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Miles O'Brien (born June 9, 1959) is an independent American broadcast news journalist specializing in science, technology, and aerospace. His left arm was amputated just above the elbow after an apparently minor accident on February 12, 2014, in the Philippines.
Born in Detroit and raised in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, O’Brien attended Georgetown University, majoring in history. One semester short of graduation in 1982, he was offered and accepted his first broadcasting position by WRC-TV in Washington, DC. He was later a reporter and anchor at TV stations in Boston, Massachusetts; Tampa, Florida; Albany, New York; and St. Joseph, Missouri. O’Brien joined CNN in 1992.
He is a third-generation general aviation pilot. His father, a private pilot, shared his love of flying with him at an early age. His first flights were in small Cessnas and Pipers rented by his father. O'Brien's paternal and maternal grandfathers were also both pilots.
While with CNN in Atlanta and New York, O’Brien served as CNN’s science, space, aviation technology, and environment correspondent. He anchored programs including Science and Technology Week, Headline News, Primetime, Live From…(CNN), and CNN American Morning.
O’Brien covered all aspects of the U.S. space program for CNN including reports on the Hubble Space Telescope, the shuttle dockings at Mir, the first space station launch from Kazakhstan, John Glenn’s return to space (with broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite), landings on Mars, the winning of the Ansari X-Prize, and the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew, a story he told to the world in a 16-hour marathon of live coverage. After years of negotiations, NASA had signed an agreement with CNN that, if not for the disaster, would have made O’Brien the first journalist to fly on a space shuttle. O’Brien followed the investigation and successful return to flight.
In 2000, O’Brien produced, shot and wrote a one-hour documentary on the process of readying a space shuttle for flight: "Terminal Count: What it Takes to Make the Space Shuttle Fly," which aired in May 2001.
A private pilot since 1988, O’Brien also reported extensively on civil aviation issues and crash investigations. O'Brien reported the airliner crashes of US Airways Flight 427, ValuJet 592, TWA 800, EgyptAir 990, American Airlines 587, Comair 5191, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Payne Stewart, Paul Wellstone, the C-150 incursion into the Washington DC Air Defense Identification Zone, and the Cory Lidle crash in Manhattan.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks, O'Brien provided viewers radar tracks of the hijacked flights while the twin towers were still standing. During the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, he, along with various retired generals, reported on military aviation techniques and strategy.
O’Brien left CNN in December 2008.
He was rehired by CNN on March 23, 2014, as an aviation analyst.
After leaving CNN, O’Brien formed Miles O’Brien Productions, LLC in Washington, DC. Through this independent company, O’Brien creates stories for numerous outlets including PBS, Discovery Science (TV channel), National Science Foundation, Spaceflightnow.com, and corporate clients. One of his most notable series productions for PBS was "Blueprint America" that dealt with rebuilding American mass transit infrastructure.
He worked on the Frontline documentary, "Flying Cheap" which aired on the one-year anniversary of the Colgan Air plane crash in Buffalo, NY. The highly acclaimed documentary featured former Colgan Air pilots revealing shocking details about some attempts to keep underpaid pilots flying beyond legal limits.
An instrument-rated pilot with about 2,000 hours pilot-in-command time, O'Brien owns a Cirrus SR22, which he often flies on assignments. His other interests include running, mountain and road biking, swimming, waterskiing, scuba diving, sailing, and carpentry.
O'Brien is on the boards of: the Challenger Center for Space Science Education; the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing; LessCancer.org, and the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation.
From 2009 to 2011, O'Brien served as chairman of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC)'s Education and Outreach Committee and advised the NASA Administrator on mass communication strategies.
He is a member of: the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (since 1988); the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (since 1982); the Experimental Aircraft Association (since 2007); and the Writers’ Guild (since 2011).