Review: City in the Sky TV aviation series thrills with its behind-the-scenes tour

The graphics on the new City in the Sky series from the BBC take visual art to new heights.
BBC

The graphics on the new City in the Sky series from the BBC take visual art to new heights.

Just when you thought you knew it all, along comes a doco that proves you know nothing at all.

That's how I felt watching City in the Sky, the new BBC series that aired on TV1 on Tuesday, January 17.

I tuned in thinking it could be an interesting watch, but this show turned out to be the best documentary I have seen in years.

At any one time there are a million people in the sky - a city on the move.
BBC

At any one time there are a million people in the sky - a city on the move.

Right near the start there's a scene of an enormous Airbus 380 wing being trucked along the street in a tiny French village in the middle of the night. It's the weirdest thing, but it just gets more weird. Turns out different bits of the world's biggest airliner are made in different European countries due to an international agreement, and they are all shipped to France, presumably in the middle of the night, to be put together, one rivet at a time. And who knew the 380 tail stands higher than Buckingham Palace?

But that's just the start. What about those gigantic aviation fuel tanks in Ghent? And those pipelines shooting billions of gallons of aviation fuel into airports all over Europe. And the behind-the-scenes look at baggage handling at Dubai was incredible.

So, too were the scenes in Yakutz in Siberia, the coldest city on earth. It's minus 47 degrees on the ground at 9am and the flight from Moscow has just landed. The plane must leave within 60 minutes or it risks freezing for the next six months. Pity the poor workers who have to wrap the tyres in blankets and pump warm air around the fuel pipes.

Dr Hannah Fry and Dallas Campbell shine as the presenters on the series.
HANNAH FRY/JILLIE BUSHELL ASSOCI

Dr Hannah Fry and Dallas Campbell shine as the presenters on the series.

Then there are the fascinating insights into airport design. Today airports need to process hundreds of thousands of people (and their bags and meals) and they are designed accordingly. Clever lighting and flooring herds travellers much faster than signage – who would have guessed? 

Amazing graphics feature right through the series. The pile of bags stretching right to the top of the Burj Khalifa is eye opening, and that's just the morning's luggage at Dubai – 50,000 pieces in three hours.

But the real credit for this series must go to the choice of presenters – specialist science presenter Dallas Campbell and Dr Hannah Fry, a lecturer on the mathematics of cities. That job description may sound dull, but Fry is anything but. Both presenters are brilliant talents. They are lively, energetic and are clearly enjoying themselves. And let's face it, who wouldn't want to sit in the cockpit of an Airbus 380 on take off?

This 'travel' series is just about as exciting as the real thing. Bring it on.

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City in the Sky airs Tuesdays at 9.35pm on TVNZ 1.

 - Stuff

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