Episode 1: Departure

Full Episode

Episode 1: Departure

Aired: 2017-02-08 52:59 Expires: 2017-03-09 Rating: TV-PG

What does it take to get 100,000 flights a day ready for take-off and up into the sky?

Premiere date: Feb. 8, 2017 10/9c

What does it take to get a million people off the ground and up in the air? From building the world’s biggest passenger plane to controlling the flow of passengers through the busiest airport on the planet, to the perils of getting airborne in the coldest city on earth -  this series takes the viewer to extremes in order to get under the skin of the remarkable story of departure.

This episode explores all of the elements that have to be in place before a flight can ever leave the ground: getting food, fuel, people and luggage loaded onto a plane is a huge logistical challenge, one that is repeated a hundred thousand times over every single day. Thousands upon thousands of people are hard at work behind the scenes to ensure that your plane is ready for departure, and this episode seeks to reveal the hidden worlds in which they operate. Without them none of us would be going anywhere.

In Dubai airport, we follow the journey of suitcases from check-in the plane: – a journey of up to 50 miles in distance, on a hidden ‘railway’ that lies buried beneath the terminal buildings. It’s a vast, computerised system – and experts are on hand to fix it the moment anything goes wrong. They need to, as without this baggage system, the whole airport would come grinding to a halt.

We also join the world’s biggest in-flight catering company as they prepare thousands of meals for consumption in the city in the sky. In terms of overall scale, this is a challenge akin to feeding a city the size of Austin, Texas. The facility also houses one of the world’s biggest dish-washing machines to help clear up all the mess.

In Belgium, we look at Europe’s biggest fuel pipeline, and learn how it delivers Jet-A1 to major airports across the continent. This is a vast hidden network originally built by NATO – it was designed to keep jet fuel flowing in the event of war with the Soviet Block, but now it’s helping keep commercial jets in the sky. Without fuel, there would be no flight, and ‘Jet-A1’ must be 100% pure if airplane fuel lines are to be kept clear of blockages.

And in Atlanta, we demonstrate the hidden design tricks that control our movements through an airport unconsciously. A top airport designer reveals the tricks of the trade, and reveals how ingenious airport layouts can help guide passengers, maintaining flow even at the busiest times of the year.

The episode comes to a climax when we join the crew of an Airbus A380 for the actual moment of take-off. We examine everything that happens as the plane barrels down the runway towards critical takeoff speed, and unpack the forces and engineering techniques that enable the miracle of flight. We reveal the fundamental forces of physics that enable a 100 ton passenger jet to successfully take to the sky.

You will never look at flying in the same way again…

More from City in the Sky

About the Series

About the Series

Explore a midair metropolis of a million people on flights that crisscross the world.

About Ep. 2 | Airborne

About Ep. 2 | Airborne

We take it for granted, but on any journey a hidden army of people keep your plane safe.

About Ep. 3 | Arrival

About Ep. 3 | Arrival

Getting on the ground safely takes an army of hidden experts and incredible technology.

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