Episode 3: Arrival
City in the Sky
Ep. 3 | Arrival
Getting on the ground safely takes an army of hidden experts and incredible technology.
Premiere date: Feb. 22, 2017 10/9c
There are around a million people in the air at any one time. But what goes up must come down - and getting all those passengers safely back to earth depends on complex global networks and some astonishing technology. Around the world, 100,000 flights a day make touchdown – almost every one of in complete safety. It is an incredible feat of engineering, but one that relies upon an army of people working behind the scenes to make it all happen.
In this programme we explore just what is involved in bringing the citizens of the sky back to the ground. We take a front row seat, joining one of the most experienced pilots in the Himalayas in the cockpit of his plane. Our pilot on the flight is one of just 26 in the world qualified to land at Paro, in Bhutan, considered by many to be the world’s most dangerous place to land. It’s a hair-raising flight through an incredibly narrow valley, just a few hundred feet from the mountainside, and the runway’s not even visible until the final few seconds of the flight.
In Atlanta airport, in Georgia, we meet up with the air traffic controllers who at certain times of the year may have to guide in over 1000 flights a day. Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world, and we finds out how its ingenious layout helps it cope with the sheer weight of numbers. Even with three runways landing planes simultaneously, this place runs an incredibly tight schedule with no margin for error. Part of that is also down to the eagle-eyed team scouring Atlanta’s runway’s for tiny pieces of fallen debris. Even a tiny stray bolt could have serious consequences if sucked into an aircraft engine, so these guys must not miss a thing – despite having only a 45 second window between planes using the runway.
This episode also takes us to Bangor Airport, in Maine where staff are on a constant state of high alert: this is a designated emergency airport, and there have been over 2000 unscheduled landings here in the last decade alone. We join the airport fire crew for their regular emergency response training, and learn what it takes to deal with a crash-landed jet.
In the UK, we join pilots in the flight simulator as they train to deal with one of the worst emergencies that could ever face them – multiple engine failure. Without power, and airliner becomes a mere glider, and it’s vital to prepare for this scenario, even though most pilots will never have to face it.
With the City in the sky predicted to double in size in the next 20 years, in this last episode in the series, the team determine what challenges will be faced in the decades to come, are and what the future of aircraft themselves might be. Future planes may be electric or solar powered, or could even look totally unlike anything we have so far seen in the skies.
More from City in the Sky
Explore a midair metropolis of a million people on flights that crisscross the world.
What does it take to get 100,000 flights a day ready for take-off and up into the sky?
We take it for granted, but on any journey a hidden army of people keep your plane safe.