Fly the friendly skies . . . and visit some of the scariest airports

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s super, man.

City in the Sky, a three-part BBC-PBS co-production now on DVD, goes behind the scenes with rare access to showcase what keeps hundreds of thousands of flights aloft daily. At any given moment, more than one million people are traveling by airplane, in 100,000 daily flights moving 30,000 feet above the Earth. This airborne metropolis and the armies of professionals needed to make it all work are captured.  From hidden cities of luggage below ground to the steady hands guiding flights around the globe, the program goes behind the scenes with rare access to uncover the invisible global networks and complex logistics that have allowed air travel to soar to new heights.

From the coldest airport in the world (in Yakutsk, Russia), to one of the busiest (in Atlanta, Georgia), to the most dangerous (in the Himalayan town of Paro, below), the series takes viewers to remote, little known places such as the world’s largest luggage storage facility and the storage tanks in Europe and southeast America that hold and transport millions of gallons of jet fuel through underground pipes.

Credit:  wikipedia

Though international in scope, the program highlights key American airports and aviation hot spots coast-to-coast, including:

· Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, one of the three busiest in the world and America’s most advanced in passenger and airline traffic flow

· Phoenix’s MedAire, Inc., at Banner University Medical Center, where a team of doctors and emergency specialists is on-call 24/7 to help cabin crews with mid-air medical crises

· Seattle’s Boeing facility, which has developed a radical new material that has led to the biggest change in airplane design since the ’20s

· The Bangor, Maine International Airport, which boasts the size of a major international hub because it serves as the first U.S. point of arrival for troubled airliners crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The program gives viewers a new appreciation for the paper stub or digital ticket that unlocks a precisely choreographed journey that starts the moment they walk into an airport terminal. Signage, lighting and flooring are designed to keep travelers on a flowing path to their gates. Vast underground machines give baggage the ride of its life from check-in to pick-up.  Even non-consumer-facing parts of the industry bring fascination: the world’s largest cargo storage in China, for example, sees one-fifth of all global shipping come through its facility.

A short recap of each episode follows:

“Departure”
Learn what it takes to get a million people off the ground—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 takeoff in the coldest city on Earth.

“Airborne”
Examine the hidden army that keeps your plane safe, and explore just what it takes to keep the “city in the sky” functioning and safe between take-off and landing. Learn why flying has become safer than ever.

“Arrival”
What goes up must come down—and getting 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 safely. Learn what’s involved.

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