Project Description

“Whisky Zulu, Whisky Zulu you are cleared for take-off 2-4 left. Line up and wait.”

 To the outsider it may seem like gibberish but it is in fact the highly structured language of the control tower at New York’s JFK airport. Air traffic controllers here, and around the world, work in bursts of frantic energy, controlling the chaos as they control the skies.

In the New York area alone dozens of controllers stare at screens, write rapidly on paper strips and keep close contact with the hundreds of airplanes taking off or landing at New York’s three major airports. Inside those planes thousands of passengers are strapped in, hoping that all will go well. It’s a busy, scary world up there in the skies and it’s getting scarier by the minute. Air Traffic Controllers play a critical role in keeping air passengers safe. Most of us have only the vaguest notion of what they do and no idea of how their job is changing. It’s time we paid attention. The job is famously nerve-wracking. If something goes wrong – and sometimes it does – people can die. That’s stress.

Air Traffic Controllers are a key element in keeping passengers safe – in this film we’ll have an insider’s view of a flight from New York to Paris. And we’ll go behind the scenes to show you just how complex the world of air traffic control is. We’ll explain the tasks, the codes and show the viewer the knuckle-biting challenges that are the daily life of an air traffic controller. We’ll look into future of air traffic control: will computer-run airplanes be guided by computerized air traffic controllers? Will that be an improvement or a nightmare waiting to happen?

Documentary (2015), 1 x 60′
Co-production: France / Canada (Galaxie Presse / Ideacom)
Broadcasters: France 5, Radio-Canada, RDI, Explora, Planète +
Producers: Amy Webb, Josette D. Normandeau (Canada) Bernard Vaillot (France)
Scriptwriter / Director: Jon Kalina
Format: HDCAM SR
Website Air Traffic Controllers: lesaiguilleursduciel.radio-canada.ca