I’ve always enjoyed learning about aircraft, from the World War 2 Spitfire to a modern passenger Airbus. So when SKIES ABOVE BRITAIN was advertised, I was excited.
The debut episode showed the safeguarding of British airspace. It goes from an RAF Base to a vintage aircraft enthusiast family.
There was drama at NATS, as an unidentified object was spotted next to Gatwick Airport. NATS is the leading provider of air traffic control in the UK and operates in thirty countries. The object turned out to be an amateur pilot who had strayed from his route, but he caused the base at Swanwick to cancel all arrivals until he had cleared five miles latitude. In the same episode they cancel 180 flights at Heathrow due to ground fog.
Meanwhile in Lincolnshire, RAF Coningsby is the busiest airfield in the UK. It has two Typhoon squadrons. We see a few training exercises where a passenger jet is hijacked and how the RAF aim to respond. The base was scrambled twelve times in 2015. It was fascinating to learn about how they train pilots, the type of exercises they go through and how many people fail due to breathing issues.
The Eurofighter Typhoon and British Aerospace Hawk are the most active in RAF service. Typhoons look truly amazing, with the show explaining that they break the speed of sound within 30 seconds, are able to fly from London to Birmingham in six minutes and have a top speed of 1,200 miles per hour.
Mick English who is a vintage aircraft enthusiast, provided a much needed break from the RAF. It was extremely satisfying to see his Gipsy Moth, there are only 20 left in the UK. Unfortunately his Dad passed in 1995 from a flight accident and his brother Giles suffered injuries in 2013 following a similar engine failure. Though Mick’s passion was very clear, “A life without adventure and danger is no life at all.”
Seeing Her Majesty’s Coastguard was another highlight. The team set off twice from Humberside to North Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District. In both situations, fog causes havoc with the teams’ line of visibility. It really hits you the level of danger they put themselves in to keep us safe.
Skies Above Britain is a superb look at aircraft and airspace safety within the United Kingdom. Its variation between Air Controllers, Coastguard, RAF, Training and vintage amateurs makes the show easy on the eye. A must watch for anybody interested in flying or planes.
- Aired on BBC2, August 17 2016 at 21:00.