Hidden Heroes of the Air

An insider view of the world of air traffic controllers

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

To the outsider this may sound like gibberish, but it actually the highly structured language spoken inside the control tower at New York’s JFK Airport. Air traffic controllers here and around the world work in bursts of frenetic energy, controlling chaos as they control the skies. In the New York City area alone, dozens of controllers stare at screens, jot down information on strips of paper and keep in close contact with the hundreds of airplanes taking off and 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, but most of us have only the vaguest notion of what they do and no idea how their work is changing. The job is famously nerve-wracking: If something goes wrong – and sometimes it does – people can die. That’s stress.

In this film, we’ll go behind the scenes to give you an insider’s view of a flight from New York to Paris and show you just how complex the world of air traffic control is. We’ll explain the tasks and the codes, and reveal the knuckle-biting challenges that are the daily life of an air traffic controller. We’ll also look into future of air traffic control: Will computer-run airplanes be guided by computerized air traffic controllers? And if so, will that be an improvement or a nightmare waiting to happen?

Co-production
France (Galaxie Presse) / Canada (Ideacom International)

Broadcasters

The Team

Producers
Josette D. Normandeau (Canada)
Amy Webb (Canada)
Bernard Vaillot (France)

Scriptwriter / Director
Jon Kalina

Director of Photography
Philippe Lavalette

Editor
Jean-Marie Drot

Original Music
Daniel Toussaint

Archival Researcher
Nancy Marcotte

Category
Documentary – Society

Format
1×52’

Game
lesaiguilleursduciel.radio-canada.ca

Languages
English, French

Delivery
HDCAM SR

Copyright 2015

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