At any given point of time, there is a city that exists up in the sky with hundred thousands of people in terms of passengers in flights travelling between countries, cities and states — say the director Russ Leven and producer Jobim Sampson of the show City In The Sky.
The show of BBC Earth reveals how the aviation industry works around the globe — safely taking passengers from one part of the globe to another. In a chat, Russ and Jobim share some insights about the ever-busy industry and how it moves.
Q How did the idea for the show come about?
Jobim Sampson (Series Producer): The starting point was a one key image we came across. It was number a of planes landing at a single airport in a single day; all composite into a single image which gives one an insight about how busy the network aviation is. That combined with the fact that there now a million people in air at any given point of time. Now, that statistic, which is equivalent to the population of a city flying up in the air, was the trigger point for the BBC to commission this show.
Russ Leven (Director on Location): Those kind of numbers; like 100 thousands of flights are up in the air at a time is jaw-dropping. That was the beginning point of the show.
Q It is even difficult to shoot a film at an airport, but this show is about airport and aircrafts. So, how difficult was it to film on those locations?
Russ: Of course, there are some practical difficulties such as the complexities and the security concern to deal with. But surprisingly, our initial negotiations to get into the airport, were surprisingly swift and smooth. We have a fantastic team for laying down the way for us. For me, the most difficult thing was crossing the security checks that is there in every airport between the air site area and the landsite area. So, it needed a lot of planning to avoid the shuttling between those two places.
Q The number of passengers travelling on the planes is going to double in the next two decade. According to you, what are the challenges that are there before the industry?
Russ: There are many different approaches to meet out the challenges from clever airport design to a lot of other things. Like how we dealt it in the show, there is a lot of work that have been put in to revolutionise the airport design. Within an airport, there are numerous individual things that are made to keep people moving. The principle today, in the 21st century, really is ‘keep people moving’.
Jobim:There is no single answer to that question. One key issue we will face or we are already facing in India is the sky becoming increasingly crowded. In the cities like Delhi and Mumbai, the number of flights coming in is staggering. It is an incredibly difficult job to keep track of all the flights. Yes, it will be a real challenge to keep the sky safe in the years ahead. But when you look at how efficient the system is, it is completely reassuring. And with the increasing technology and information, we will be able to cope with the doubling of traffic.
Q Is there any stretch, which was difficult to shoot?
JP: We shot at one of the world’s coldest airport that is Yakutsk. The temperature there might reach down to -50 C. Getting aircraft off the ground and onto the ground is a great challenge in that kind of conditions. The aircraft engine freezes solid, the moment it touches the ground. Every engineering element of an aircraft dies and shuts down in that condition. So, the engineers go to great lengths to keep the engines alive. As a crew, we faced pretty much the same temperature. We get to film for just ten minutes at a stretch. It was a challenge for us but the real challenge is for those guys who run the airport. For us its just the cameras but for them they have to keep everything running.
(City in the Sky airs on Sony BBC Earth, under the weekend slot Earth Specials.)