S1, E1: Departure

Available on iTunes, PBS Video, Prime Video
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 episode explores all the elements that have to be in place before a flight can 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 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. 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. 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 Belgium, we look at Europe’s biggest fuel pipeline, and learn how it delivers Jet-A1 to major airports across the continent. And in Atlanta, we demonstrate the hidden design tricks that control our movements through an airport unconsciously. The episode comes to a climax when we join the crew of an Airbus A380 for the moment of take-off. You’ll never look at flying the same way again.