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RADIO: "Hello London tower, this is Trans Canada."
Britain today has 44 public airports.
Gateways to a web of routes that have interconnected the country
and linked to Britain with the rest of the world.
You step into airport X and you emerge in another country.
Their promise of adventure has fired our imagination and our desires.
Modern and racy, very racy.
The airports are racy.
You feel alive in an airport, I feel.
As well as inspiring skulduggery at the highest levels.
Things were concealed from the public,
lies were told to those people who were losing their property.
This series charts the development of Britain's airports.
How they've changed our landscape and created new borders.
Generating both freedom and panic.
If you make it through the barrier, you're a good citizen, buy shit.
and if you don't make it through the barrier, you're an evil terrorist who should be disappeared.
And how airports have transformed what it means to be British.
It just became a new world really.
The old way of life had completely and utterly gone.
'This is the last and final call...'
The airport tells you a lot about the state of a nation.
It's more than just the gateway.
'Please proceed immediately to gate 21.'
There was a time when airports existed only in the imagination and anything seemed possible.
The Wright brothers' historic first flights in 1903 put man in the air.
The question was now, just where was he to land?
There was a quest for - what does an airport need to look like?
Airports were regarded as buildings of the future, and I think therefore,
airport design tends to capture always an image of the future.
Dynamism - that was a new world, all about energy.
The most exciting machine of all was of course the aircraft,
and the most exciting buildings were skyscrapers.
One of the most exciting young architects after World War I
was an Italian called Antonio Sant'Elia.
He sketched giant skyscrapers in which there would be railway stations,
motorway service stations and there would be, of course, an airport.
That was the great fantasy, we would all be on the move in this new world.
There were some totally bonkers schemes for ultra-modern airports in London.
This scheme, situated in the borough of St Pancras,
in the neighbourhood of King's Cross and St Pancras station, have been before the public for some time.
The runways would be so short that what would happen in practice -
the air crafts would have gone... "bumf"
bumf and fallen down in Gower Street or the Euston Road and they wouldn't have been very popular.
Architects' early fantasies for airports were brought to earth with a bump.
The realities of flying meant airports weren't suited to city centres but their outskirts.
The most basic requirement for the early airports or flying fields
were simply that they were open areas of ground.
Moreover, the surrounding area had to be free from obstructions
to allow the pilots to take-off and land safely.
So you had things like farmers fields, racecourses,
school playing fields and the like.
But once in the air, aircraft were free.
They had no respect for existing national borders.
In the old days, you arrived in Britain and you thought of the White Cliffs of Dover as you sailed in.
Now you arrive in Britain through its great gateways, the airport gateways.
They're buildings, they're human achievements and human designs, not natural features.
Now Britain's borders were wherever a plane touched down.
So what the airport had to have was a customs post.
The government put one up on an ex-RAF base on Hounslow Heath,
making it Britain's first landlocked customs post.
It was from here that the very first international commercial flight took off for Paris, in August 1919.
The first flight itself was an adventure, I think it's fair to say.
The weather was pretty atrocious,
and it's reported that one of the first passengers to actually fly across the English Channel
was sick into his bowler hat!
It might have been an inauspicious start,
but the opportunity to defy gravity was now open to anyone who could afford it.
That meant the airfield had better shape up.
The birth of commercial aviation meant
the shift from the airfield to the airport
that happened in the 1920s.
The gaze was no longer in the sky, it was towards the ground.
Airfields existed solely for pilots, but airports were designed for the paying passenger.
Airports act as transformers - they prepare us from
earthly beings on the ground to being these beings in the air.
They step us up, they prepare us for flight.
You were out on the tarmac and in the aircraft within a matter of minutes.
The main feeling was the surge across the grass.
Bumping along, bumping along, bumping along and then all of a sudden -
up you went, and it was a funny feeling. The old tummy went a bit funny.
You feel a bit of G-force whenever the plane takes off and it throws you back in your chair.
So that's fun, I like that.
With commercial flight now under way,
the government quickly relocated Britain's only airport customs post from fog-bound Hounslow Heath.
Instead it chose to build its first airport terminal and gateway to the world...
When I was 14, we moved from Oxford to Croydon,
and we moved to a house in Purdy Way
that was only a quarter of a mile from the airport.
We heard the planes coming over the house,
and I used to rush out into the garden and look up at the planes,
and it was so exciting to me.
There was an association with genteel flying because remember in the early days,
the man in the street couldn't really afford to fly,
so I think it was to do with relatively well-off people,
a sense of luxury travel,
and I think Croydon Airport has this sort of genteel country house feel about it.
It was a great building.
Loads of porters who used to carry the luggage,
and also, we had cleaners at night
that cleaned the place up so it was always in pristine condition.
You had the booking hall there with all the counters either side
with all the different companies like KLM, Air France, Lufthansa.
You used to get the coaches coming down from London with all the passengers.
This flight to Paris was a teatime flight.
We got to Croydon at about 3:15pm, we were weighed, as was usual.
I used to weigh the luggage,
weigh the people but when I weighed the young ladies,
I turned the scale round so they couldn't see the dial,
and I think it was appreciated!
Actually, if someone was too heavy, what we did was say,
"Sorry, madam, you've got to leave some of your luggage behind!"
It was a minor inconvenience compared to passengers' discovery
of one of the fundamental truths of airports.
Here, distance was dead.
Now, only time mattered.
I always think about places and time.
Like how much time it would take to get there, not about the miles -
I never count the miles.
Airports had a very fundamental effect on how people perceived both time and space.
One of the most important things
was that airlines were selling this idea of time,
For the first time, journeys that would have taken months or weeks
could now be accomplished by air in a matter of hours,
so it was far easier and far quicker to get from London to Paris, say,
in the early 1920s or 1930s
than it was to travel to other places in the United Kingdom.
When I flew to Paris, I didn't really know how far it was.
I know now it's 200-and-something miles from Croydon.
But that didn't occur to me.
All I knew was it was going to take us 2.5 hours to get there.
But while a lucky few were gadding from Croydon to Paris more quickly than ever before,
the government saw the airport as a fast track to further-flung places.
NEWSREEL: 'Merchants from Milan, farmers back to Australia,
'wives to join husbands, Army men going back to India after leave.'
By the time the first airports arrived,
with Croydon in the '20s or early-'30s,
a quarter of the world was painted red on the maps,
so the British Empire was a reality.
It was about to disappear, but then it was a reality.
Very much the idea that this is an airport serving the Empire.
-'Every day these services carry letters and packages all over the world.'
Imperial Airways was created by the government in 1924.
Within a little over 10 years, Croydon was the centre of a network that stretched as far as Brisbane.
-'Letters which missed the post can be phoned to Croydon.'
Croydon 3261 speaking.
My father had been posted out to North India,
and in 1938 when the crisis came,
my mother said I was to come out by air.
They decided that was the best way.
When we arrived at Croydon Airport, I was slightly apprehensive.
We got into this building which wasn't very exciting.
There might have been a sort of kiosk there, but not a proper shop.
But we didn't spend long and then we were taken out to the plane.
I flew out accompanied by some elderly lady,
but she was ill all the time,
so I had to look after her, and she wasn't much use!
Because of the limited range of aeroplanes,
more airports and landing grounds had to be built en route,
and they themselves became symbols of Imperial rule and power.
NEWSREEL: 'Shoes from Bond Street tread the desert sand.
'Shiny suitcases from Piccadilly reflect the glare of an Arabian sun.
'Refreshment for the travellers, time to talk with strangers and have tea.'
We came down in all sorts of places.
In Basra, there was nothing there at all.
Except a little restaurant with coloured lights,
and the steward took me there for supper,
where we had cold jellied soup which I'd never had before,
and thought was absolutely disgusting.
Croydon, with its empire routes, was flourishing.
The government felt that was pretty much all the airport that Britain required.
In the 1920s,
there was no national plan for airport development whatsoever.
Basically, the government didn't envisage
that there was going to be any mass...
that civil aviation was going to become a mass passenger transport market.
But this view wasn't shared on the Continent where airports and their users were multiplied.
The country at the forefront of developments was Germany.
It had been denied a military air force after World War I,
so instead, threw its energies into civil aviation.
There was one man only too keen to encourage the trend.
The 20th century politician who understood the early power of flight
was, of course, Adolf Hitler.
He would fly in the latest aircraft from city to city,
town to town, land in air fields and coming out, he was a man from space, from the air,
coming down around Germany and really exciting people.
In the early '30s with the rallies and Nazi demonstrations that occurred at Tempelhof airfield
where they organised a mass demonstration of hundreds of thousands of supporters,
they used the airport to bring the community together
and to communicate political messages.
Ever since, politicians and leaders of all complexions have used the airport as a stage.
Its qualities of modernity and dynamism intensifying their promise of a better future.
REPORTERS: 'This is the moment that millions in Iran had been waiting for.'
'There he is, the President, followed by Mrs Gorbachev.'
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
In 1920s Britain, there were a few aviation evangelists.
They appreciated the potential of airports and didn't want Britain to be left behind.
Alan Cobham, a former World War I ace, set out on a crusade to make the British air-minded.
With our aircraft, we are going practically to every town throughout the country
in the hope of making flying popular,
and bringing about the establishment of a landing ground in every town.
Cobham thought that by being involved in aviation,
by visiting an airport,
it was almost what was described as a baptism of the air.
In the sense that you would transcend yourself by thinking
of what was to come with aviation, what was to be gained by building something like an airport,
that you would gain something in yourself, you would be a new kind of person, a better person.
The excitement really was in the audience of the people watching
the various things like - I think somebody walked out on the wing of an aeroplane.
But there was a general hubbub of excitement
because it was a very rare event for an air display to come to Sundridge, very rare.
It never happened before and has never happened since.
For the new believers, short joy flights were offered.
NEWSREEL: 'The object is to take people over London, that Londoners may see London.
'It is made at a very cheap price of 12 and sixpence with the sole object
'that poor and rich alike can see their own London from the air.'
It showed people who thought their city was the limits,
the horizon of all known possibilities,
that it's just a tiny bit of a much larger sphere,
so it immediately reminds you that the world is bigger
and so more diverse, more exciting and more possible.
You looked out and thought, oh, my house there.
It was great!
To have an airport was to be modern.
Soon, towns across the country were scrambling to build one of their very own.
I have now great pleasure in declaring the Luton Municipal Aerodrome open.
Obviously, years ago, a city was defined as whether you had a cathedral or not.
To be honest, I think nowadays, if you haven't got an airport,
you're not really a city, are you?
I now have much pleasure in declaring the airport of Birmingham open.
To be a local authority of any worth, you had to have your own aerodrome.
So, if one looks to Yorkshire and the north-east,
there were airports at Grimsby, Doncaster, Leeds-Bradford, Hull, Newcastle.
So, airports springing up all over the country in close proximity to each other.
But there was one place that wanted an airport that was bigger,
better and bolder than anywhere else in the country.
The best city in the world is Liverpool.
All the glamour, all the girls, all the fashion,
the footballers and the Albert Dock.
Liverpool is the best city in the world.
Liverpool of course was the greatest port in the country,
and I think the people realised
that a good airport would be very good to have
alongside its shipping port.
'Their town council consulted and it took a lot of advice.'
They wanted to put Liverpool on the air map,
they wanted to see Liverpool as being like its port was,
a kind of hub.
NEWSREEL: 'Liverpool's newly-constructed civil airport,
'the largest and most important commercial aerodrome in the North of England.'
Speke airport was the most ambitious and expensive in Britain.
While most provincial airports only offered internal flights,
Speke soon had ones across the sea,
not just to Belfast and the Isle of Man but to Amsterdam.
We used to watch the aircraft coming in and it was very interesting to think that they had come
all the way from Holland to Speke and how they found their way across.
They used to park quite close, I suppose 20 yards away, and walk into the building.
Everything was parked on the doorstep.
Speke airport was influenced not by Croydon, not by British examples,
but by the very latest, and that was from Germany.
But it's not offensively modern to British eyes, it was gently curved
and made of nice brick,
and the interiors were very gently glamorous.
Speke was the finest airport in Britain.
But in Germany, the next generation was already emerging,
as Hitler rebuilt Berlin's Tempelhof.
NEWSREEL: 'As the gigantic buildings rise on the Tempelhof site,
'we get an idea of the immensity of the embarkation hall.
'Paris has just opened her new airport at Le Bourget,
'and New York has laid the foundation of hers.
'Britain still sticks to Croydon, a quarter of the size of any of these.
'What is Britain doing about it?'
Tempelhof is one of the most spectacular airport buildings anywhere, even today.
The plane is treated like a passenger.
The plane is welcomed at this great sweeping airport,
which must be one kilometre long, I should think.
The hangars are included, the passengers are included -
all are organised in the right sequence to make the building work for passengers.
Tempelhof was the first truly modern airport,
and despite its Nazi origins, a blueprint for those that followed.
Because what its architect understood was the importance of airport circulation.
The science of logistics, the science of moving huge numbers of people
very efficiently and very quickly without panic
lies at the heart of the post-war civil aviation miracle,
if you can call it that.
The pressure on getting people in and out of terminals
quickly and comfortably and efficiently
is more important than anything else.
And hopefully, they get a good experience.
And direct - no corners if possible.
Getting the bags going in a straight line is a good thing.
It's a fantastic magnet at the other end.
You want to be sitting in that aeroplane with a Bloody Mary in your hand waiting for take-off.
It's called intuitive way finding.
You simply move through it because you're kind of pulled through the terminal
by certain unconscious cues like the feeling of the floor under your feet
or by the way in which that flooring looks.
It hasn't changed to carpet,
or it hasn't changed from a limestone floor to a different kind of flooring.
So we feel we are carried along like a river through the building.
The design process is characterised by lots of arrows
and lots of flows and arrows of different thicknesses.
Big arrows for big flows and small arrows for small flows.
Blue ones for departures, red ones for arrivals,
orange ones for transfers,
so you get this nest of increasing complexity of passenger flows.
Sometimes it's just - keep moving, keep moving,
where are we going, we don't know.
I don't feel processed, no.
I might quite enjoyed feeling processed, then I wouldn't get lost!
Where do we go, where do we go? Upstairs, departures.
If you don't go in a certain way in an airport, then it all goes wrong.
It's like playing chess, you're just getting moved and moved,
and in the end, you're going to go, check mate, I'm out, next.
Not just logistics but plane navigation and runway development
were all hugely accelerated by World War II.
Airports came of age,
transformed from small-scale affairs into industrial complexes.
We have built airfields from Iceland to the Azores,
from Crete and Malta to Bel-Air
and in this country alone, during the war, we reconstructed 444 airfields.
At one period, we were turning out three aerodromes every week.
In the Air Ministry, there was one man who saw the war
as a golden opportunity to construct a major new civil airport for London.
Even if he had to use subterfuge to do it.
"Almost the last thing I did at the Air Ministry of any importance was to hijack for the Civil Aviation,
"the land on which London Airport stands, under the noses of resistant ministerial colleagues.
"If hijack is too strong a term, I plead guilty to the lesser crime of deceiving the Cabinet committee."
It was an Orwellian exercise.
Things were concealed from the public, lies were told.
The perpetrator of this plot was World War I ace
and Under-Secretary of State for Air, Harold Balfour.
Balfour took a celluloid grid and placed it over a large map of London,
and he found the only place suitable for building a large new airport
was a village called Heathrow which lay in Middlesex.
It was all fields. It was pretty area, yes,
because there was the blossom from the fruit trees.
Little farms and smallholdings and market gardeners, really.
Balfour knew that the civil authorities would never approve
his bold project on such prime arable land,
so he resorted to lying, to the Cabinet and the country,
and claimed an airport at Heathrow was vital for the war effort.
Within months, emergency requisition powers had secured the land.
NEWSREEL: 'It was in April 1944 that history came to these country fields.
'An airport was required to finish off the Japanese.
'The landscape was changed and the past obliterated.'
It was pretty horrendous. People didn't want to move or relocate.
A lot of people lost their businesses but then, the majority
of people that lived in the area eventually worked on the airport.
My father went to work there actually because he had a market garden business,
but eventually it went and got swallowed up.
The driving force behind the demolition was the need for longer and stronger runways.
Runways have always pushed the boundaries of engineering.
A typical wheel load applied through a modern aircraft
is about 10 times the load that is going down through the wheel of a lorry.
Before the war, the only area that you'd find concrete on an airport
would be where the aircraft were being parked
and were passengers were embarking.
Elsewhere, it would be a grass runway and they were entirely appropriate for the aircraft of the time.
During World War II as aircraft got bigger and heavier,
particularly the big British bombers,
they needed longer runways and eventually harder runways,
so concrete runways was the future of both military and civil airfields.
But to get sufficient lift,
planes still needed to take off into the wind.
So to allow for changing wind direction, they built six runways at Heathrow in a Star of David pattern.
It was the biggest engineering project that Britain had ever seen.
No other airfield in the UK had been built anywhere near the scale of Heathrow.
On site there was a laboratory to determine the strength of the concrete that was being placed.
Tested to destruction.
At peak, the labour force approached towards 2,000 people.
That is a lot of men.
It gave you a far more exciting range of what was out there for you.
I had a few dates with a lad from Doncaster,
so that's what it brought to us - meet new people
and have new boyfriends, a different one every night!
When you see a beautiful piece of concrete finished,
that's as good as gold.
Some of the original concrete is indeed still in use today.
We probably have a runway thickness now of about one metre,
but the very early concrete is down at the bottom of that one-metre depth.
-'The smoothness of the finished concrete is an important sector in runway construction.
'Rough surfaces cause excessive wear to aircraft tyres.
'For this reason, after the passage of the mechanical plant, the surface
'is usually belted by hand to give the best possible finish.'
We are looking for any surface defects
such as any break-ups, lighting defects,
-'Vacate runway two - I suggest you go right.'
Vacate runway two to right.
Runways here are inspected six times in every 24 hour period,
so roughly every four hours.
TALKING ON RADIO
Bravo Zulu One into runway to vacate Delta Zulu One. That's copied, Leader Three.
I've just been given permission to re-enter the runway.
We can't afford to have any potholes or any large amounts of rubber build up or that kind of thing.
It does have to be kept in the prime condition to enable good braking action.
So the runway friction has to be monitored.
We usually have two people in a vehicle when carrying out a runway inspection.
We have to adopt a sterile cockpit which means that we don't talk unless we have to,
but it requires an immense amount of concentration from both people.
That's inspection complete, thank you. Runway status is wet, wet, wet.
Anti-icing needed and serviceable. Thanks, Leader Three.
On this first day of the new year,
this probing flight starts off from Heathrow
which will be the future civil airport of London.
It takes off from the finest runway in the world.
1st January 1946 here at Heathrow was an amazing day.
Although the weather was cold and bleak, very depressing,
it was nevertheless, the first international departure from Heathrow.
I was just a young 16 year-old traffic apprentice
with British South American Airways.
I just felt so proud, as we all did.
-'Civil flying gets going again,
'and Britain begins to fight for her old place on the skylines of the world.'
Usually, a little puff of blue smoke would emerge when the engines started,
and very comforting to see all four engines started all right,
and away she was, 12:07pm, the first leg of the journey which was to Lisbon.
It was an exciting era. New routes, new developments coming along,
and Britain needed that sort of boost and it just captured the atmosphere.
Obviously it was exciting to see planes in the sky.
We had never seen anything like it in our lives.
My sister worked there at the time.
She was a teleprinter operator and she was working in a tent.
I found that quite intriguing.
Duckboards etc, people squelching about.
Foreign passengers must have been horrified.
The first time I went to Heathrow, I think it was on my honeymoon,
and I had an argument with my wife.
I thought it was a tent we left from, and she said it was a shed.
I think I'm probably right!
It was like an army camp.
There was an enormous gap between what Britain could achieve in terms of Engineering in the aviation world
and what it could produce in terms of passenger experience.
Because it was a ration book world, an austerity world,
there was a feeling, I suppose, that luxury wasn't something people should have.
Heathrow has struggled to shake off
the army surplus make-do-and-mend mentality on which it was built.
In fact, Heathrow operated without proper terminal buildings for 10 years.
The man tasked with finally providing them
was architect Frederick Gibberd.
The first thing I think I should say about this scheme, which I found so fascinating,
was that the whole scheme is right in the middle of the airport.
Doesn't that Star of David runway layout give you a bit of a problem?
One had to get across the runway to avoid interrupting the aircraft movements.
What the devil are you going to do about that?
You get there by a tunnel.
It's pretty unsatisfactory.
You come from a tunnel over there.
The terminal building was going to be constrained.
It could only take place within the island at the centre of the runways.
Access by the creation of tunnels.
In order for Heathrow to expand properly, new terminals would have to be built beyond the island.
It had to be moved around like a game of chess, here and there around that Star of David pattern.
There was no clear idea or clear vision of what a truly modern airport might be.
One could see the greater numbers, of course,
but no-one could ever believe it could grow to the extent it has done.
Expansion of Britain's airports has been driven not just by technological but political changes.
As the old imperial powers gave way their colonies,
a whole new generation of nations and airlines were born.
It's very important to have your national carrier
flying to different parts of the world.
Because you fly your flag, and you fly it well.
Watching planes at Heathrow Airport
was like watching the United Nations Assembly played out in front of you,
and the aircraft would come from all parts of the world
and were symbolic of the achievements of those countries.
Croatia became a nation in 1991,
and Croatia Airlines was formed shortly after.
For a small carrier from a country that was still at war that was being formed,
to see the name Croatia Airlines here at Heathrow Airport,
it was a nice feeling, it was a feeling of pride.
The national airlines had their own identity and one got used to their different ways of doing things.
For example, the Swiss were super-efficient, the Germans were very efficient,
the French more laid-back.
One could sense the international atmosphere very early on indeed.
The frontiers of nations had now effectively moved to the ticket desk of their national carrier.
Airports had changed political geography,
but the physical geography around them couldn't be ignored.
The surrounding area has been brought under the airport's influence.
The environment managed...
..and local residents kept under control.
HE PLAYS TAPE OF RECORDED BIRD SQUAWKING
The rooks are the cleverest, I have to admit.
They give us the run-around,
they really do.
You're looking out, once you've dispersed them off field,
you see them go a long way off and then settle down in some field.
The next minute you'll see one pop up above the trees,
and he's looking directly over to the airfield
just to see if you're in that same position,
and then he'll go back down.
Jets high-powered engines suck in air,
and in the rare event of a bird being ingested too,
the blades can be dangerously damaged.
Vans broadcasting bird distress signals were developed,
with calls tailor-made to scare off different species.
The first one is a rook.
The next one is a starling.
Now we're going on to the gold species.
HERRING GULL SQUAWKING
I can make that one move now.
Human decoys have been deployed.
24 beats a minute was found to be a particularly effective deterrent.
But sometimes, something even more startling has been required.
That was a kestrel.
You've got to be careful when you move them.
Obviously with aircraft taking off,
you don't want to send the birds up in front of the aircraft.
So, it's probably like a game of chess where you are protecting something,
you are protecting the runways at Manchester airport.
I'll just stop you there, we've got a heron that's just flying over.
He's going off field to the north.
Back in the 1950s, though, birds had little to fear at Britain's regional airports.
Certainly not aeroplanes.
At Speke airport in Liverpool,
the glorious terminal was now functioning more as a local amenity
than a thriving airport.
Every Saturday they would have dances there,
and they were just wonderful.
The ladies with all their long dresses
and sweeping up those beautiful staircases.
It really was lovely.
The orchestra in the background - magnificent.
Of course you had the noise of the aeroplanes of an evening which added to it, I thought.
It wouldn't detract from it.
It wasn't as if they were coming in by the droves but just one an hour.
The balcony was very popular among families,
and they would spend the day waiting for the aircraft to come.
Of course people in those days used to bring their knitting with them,
and games of football played on the balcony
where the children had got disinterested in waiting for the next aircraft.
Like most airports in Britain,
Speke had been swept up in the post-war Labour government's nationalisation plans.
In the 1950s, the government didn't anticipate
this new mass market of people holidaying in Palma, et cetera,
but at the same time, I'm not even sure that had that been predicted by the government,
they would necessarily have thought of actually putting facilities in place
to enable people to fly out of their local airport.
Economically, it seemed to make sense to concentrate on developing the capital.
But there was one city that begged to disagree.
We've always had a saying up here -
what Manchester does today, London does tomorrow!
Manchester Council fought nationalisation of their airport,
determined it should stay locally-run.
Forward-thinking front people involved within the city.
The ship canal - who would have thought of building a canal
from Liverpool to Manchester, which they did.
It was the same with the airport.
Exactly the same there.
Forward thinking, entrepreneurs that were involved.
It was a calculated risk.
In 1953, Manchester inaugurated England's only transatlantic service outside the capital.
They'd splashed out on extending the runway,
and could soon handle the new jets.
Their next-door neighbours, though, had noticed they'd omitted one thing.
Manchester airport didn't have a terminal.
I can remember walking along the planks on the ground,
and they used to have little huts.
There was no terminal building like Liverpool has.
Liverpool was far more advanced.
If you've not got a runway that's long enough to take long-haul aircraft,
it's a waste of time having any terminal buildings at all.
The strategy paid off.
Within a few years, Manchester airport was in profit,
and it had saved up for a spanking new terminal of its own.
REPORTER: 'The crowning glories of the new terminal are the four Venetian glass chandeliers,
'each one weighing two tons and containing 1,300 pieces of glass.'
I'm afraid Manchester went ahead and Liverpool just went down and down.
Manchester just got bigger and bigger.
It was very upsetting for us all.
For years, Liverpudlians suffered the indignity of driving past their own airport to use Manchester's.
Until that is, the British love of a bargain kicked in.
I'm from Manchester and obviously we have a wonderful airport.
However, I'm flying from Liverpool today,
which is also quite a nice airport.
Obviously not as nice as Manchester!
But to be honest, the flights were cheaper.
Liverpool's old art-deco terminal has been turned into a hotel,
servicing a brand new airport building.
But having cornered the low-cost market,
Liverpool Airport still felt it needed something extra.
The development team went to the States
and looked at an airport in Orange County,
which happened to be called John Wayne airport,
with a big statue outside of John Wayne with his stetson.
It set the seed in their minds - what a great opportunity,
why don't we rename the airport, change the name.
MUSIC: "Help" by The Beatles
Here in the UK, we're quite a boring lot, really,
and we never name our airports after anything but the city or the region that it serves,
so there was a real coup here.
-'It's the first time a British airport
'has been named after a celebrity and Yoko said she was honoured.'
As John said,
there's no hell below us,
above us, only sky.
MUSIC: "Imagine" by John Lennon
Liverpool airport is wonderful,
it's what it should have been all the time.
Now we can go to Barcelona and everywhere from Liverpool,
which is brilliant stuff.
Sorry, Manchester are going to lose out and let Liverpool prosper.
It does make it easier for the people of Liverpool.
You're only a few miles away from the airport, no motorways...
it's great stuff!
Passenger numbers flowing through Britain's airports each year
have risen since the war from 700,000 to 250 million.
But as the country's airports have become more successful,
regional and even national identity
has had to give way to an international airport culture.
Airports are machines that are fundamentally designed
to facilitate international flow and mobility so passengers arrive,
they are processed, put on the right aircraft and dispatched.
As a result of this, it's really important that the language
at the terminal is, to a certain extent, universally standardised.
Where you should check in, where the security lanes are -
everything is coded.
The airport is entirely structured around signs.
There are some Japanese over there I could try.
-Could ask what your nationality is?
-If you saw that sign, what would that mean to you?
'There are some pictograms which are absolutely extraordinary,
'and I think it's Schiphol airport in Amsterdam,'
which has a special sign for porn shop,
and unluckily, I've forgotten what that is!
Washing your hands?
Anything else you think it could mean?
-It's a customs security point.
-Oh right, OK.
So, you were virtually there.
And now this one.
-You can use it.
-I would think it's a ladies' toilet.
-You are exactly right!
But even as late as the 1960s,
this international language was one the British were reluctant to learn.
REPORTER: Foreign tourists meet signs in English and English only.
Why aren't there any pictorial signs there to help them?
Because there's been no great international standard for pictorial symbols.
Ever since I was a lad, and that's some time ago,
continental airports have had these signs on their toilets.
Why are we only getting them now?
I think it's because of innate conservatism, the thought of a lady in skirts
as being an indication of a ladies' lavatory
has not been widely accepted.
A lady in skirts may attract a Middle Eastern or a Far Eastern gentleman
into misinterpreting what the room is for.
Heathrow may have reflected British conservatism...
..but a revolution had started.
When London's new international airport, Gatwick, was developed,
the architects took a more open-minded approach.
They commissioned a tutor at the Royal College of Art, Jock Kinnear, to design the signs.
He was assisted by his student, Margaret Calvert.
Nobody had ever signposted an airport and Gatwick was a big event then.
One wanted something more European, more all-embracing.
It was very much an engineer's and architect's world - hard hats and that.
So we went up ladders and scaffolding,
and holding damp pieces of cartridge paper
with the builders helping us and looking at them
from a distance to see what size they should be, the lettering.
Of course, the essential innovation was that we used lower case letters
so that was actually the very beginning.
Calvert and Kinnear went on to sign many of Britain's airports,
where their use of colour was striking.
It's essential that the actual sign is what you notice first
before the information on it, the legend.
Black on yellow is the most noticeable combination.
Aesthetically, an ugly combination if you think.
You don't wear black and yellow but it is very striking, very strong
and if you get all the elements right, it can look very good.
Yellow and black has a nice sort of glow.
I think it would be nice for my own home. I quite like signs.
I would like signs for my life saying, this way for this, that way for that.
I think we all want somebody to come and design us our own road maps.
When you enter the airport, you abandon a certain kind of free will.
It's a relief, you're relieved,
you're on the travelator, I'll change some money.
I'll buy some things I need, I'll get on the plane.
By giving in to the machine,
passengers become part of an airport waltz.
There is a highly-choreographed dance and the aeroplane flows,
the baggage flows and the people flows
all have to act seamlessly together in one holistic system.
Out on the tarmac, the pilot's subject to as many instructions as the passengers in the terminal.
For me, the airport is the ramp area.
It's about where all the activity comes together.
It's like a hidden world that the general public don't see.
We orchestrate baggage loading, push backs, the fuelling.
If there's a hold-up, or things don't turn out right,
it would snowball and cause a lot of disruption.
With increasing complexity, not just the airport but the airfield itself,
there's needed an organising intelligence.
A new airport breed was born to take control.
I thoroughly enjoy controlling.
You sit up in the tower, you conduct the whole system,
you've got aircraft coming in, aircraft going out.
Big aircraft, small aircraft,
deadlines to meet, slots,
and you really just have to orchestrate the whole thing to make it work safely.
When I started in air traffic control, the pilots were in charge.
Mostly, they were ex-World War II pilots who had done some pretty challenging stuff,
and they came out and expected to be able to carry on flying their aircraft,
and air traffic control were largely there to make their life a bit difficult.
It was more fun because you were very much on your own,
and you had to make your own decisions all the time.
There were the odd cases where people have landed on the wrong airfields.
You kept rather quiet about it, normally,
because you didn't want anybody to know,
and quietly fly back to your own airfield and not say a word!
Work out roughly how long it would take you,
and then you would do it visually by first landmarks, pinpoints.
Railways were very useful, you could follow railways.
Quite good fun, really.
Not very safe!
In April 1922, two pilots navigating in poor visibility and both following the same railway line
sadly flew into one another with tragic consequences.
As a result of that, a number of radio navigation beacons were installed to help pilots navigate.
You had your radio aid which had a pointer on it and you flew towards that.
You flew designated routes and they had various reporting points.
The controller told you which course to fly and what height to fly at.
You just followed his orders, rather like following a TomTom or something!
I should think that at any moment now, the speed bird will be calling over Dean Cross.
The individual waypoints are given names.
Pilots flying between England and the Republic of Ireland, for example, encounter the waypoint Ginis.
Pilots occasionally also encounter the waypoints Beano and Dandy.
Hotspur, around here you've got Lesta and Pigot.
Needle and thread.
A huge sense of humour!
It's just very rare that you're allowed to express it,
not when you're flying at any rate!
French was once the language of the air.
But after World War II,
the international regulations of aviation were established,
and English was designated the official language.
HE SPEAKS IN CODE
'International regulations apply to just about everything we do.'
At its basic level, we use Greenwich Mean Time,
and the whole aviation world uses Greenwich Mean Time,
and the time will be exactly the same in a control tower in Hong Kong as it is here.
But there's one thing that has been outside the control of the controllers.
We are surrounded by water, oddly enough.
There's the reservoir, so obviously it's prone to fog.
I'm surprised they ever thought of putting an airport there, really!
The first attempts to guide aircraft down
included a string of lighthouses,
beacons on airfields,
and even firing rockets.
During World War II, the RAF developed a system,
of burning hundreds of thousands of gallons of petrol alongside the runway.
Somebody once said, it's just like going into hell when you go into this mass of flames,
and hope you don't turn off the runway - keep straight on the runway of course.
But it worked very well.
It cleared the fog away, and of course ,it was visible through the fog.
It was even considered for Heathrow,
but never installed.
Let's go down to 3,000 feet at 12 miles.
That would be great.
We are now 12 miles from touchdown at Heathrow.
I can see the approach lights ahead of me.
To the left of the approach lights I can see the precision approach path indicator.
Radar, instrument landing systems and auto-land.
All developed to guide flights through the fog.
That was quite amazing, it was a little bit like the Martians had landed, I suppose, really.
Edward Calvert developed a distinctive system of lights
to make the runway itself clear.
We've got a very good view now of the Calvert lighting system.
The difference that Calvert made was,
he put in place some crossbars and you can see ahead of you,
a number of sets of white lights
that cut across the extended centre line of the runway.
They were vitally important for pilots when auto-land wasn't available.
Because it allowed them to determine whether they were actually to the left or the right of the centre line
but more importantly, whether the wings were level,
because it's really important to keep the aeroplane on a stable trajectory
for the last part of the approach.
That is telling me we're on the correct approach so the aircraft is flaring now,
and in a moment we'll feel the wheels touch the ground.
There they go. I'm going to take some reverse idle.
Those big plates that you see coming up on the wings if you're sitting near the wings,
are automatically deployed.
I'm going to allow the aircraft to brake automatically.
It's nice to get back home, you've got family to get back and be with.
The adrenalin's there because it's a scary time, landing.
But night-time is where the magic is.
The magic of the lights, the magic of the runways, the sparkle - they are simply jewel-like.
It seems strange at night because it was that much quieter,
and you weren't used to it, it was ghostly.
Complete contrast to the hectic activity in the day.
At night when one sees the runway lights and when one sees the beautifully lit terminal,
you realise just how far modernity can touch us.
Over the last 100 years, since the first flight took off in 1903,
the airfield has become the airport.
A 24-hour-a-day movement machine.
Constantly changing and evolving.
It's a transformation that Britain, as a nation, has tentatively embraced.
But as individuals, we've flocked to the airport as soon as we could afford to.
In the next programme, we explore how the jet age turned the British
into international travellers and in the process, changing our lives.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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