Inside Sydney Airport

Inside Sydney Airport

If Sydney Airport is a ‘city within a city’ then it makes perfect sense that SBS would hook a serious observer around its underbelly.

After all there are cultures that crisscross from its arrival halls to its tarmac staff, with any number of spontaneous storylines and dramas colliding on a daily basis.

Mascot hosts 900 flights a day from 47 airlines, with 120,000 passengers a day. ITV Studios Australia, which previously addressed SBS’s fondness for trains in Inside the Central Stationit now focuses its cameras on domestic and international arrivals.

Episode one is underpinned by the city’s punitive airport curfew from 11pm to 6am and the pressure to meet daily demands before the 10:59pm clock runs out. It focuses on different areas of the staff and tells the story from the point of view of the airport staff.

From 5 in the morning the symphony of movement begins…..

Duty manager George oversees the smooth running of T1, where thousands of passengers and families meet and greet against a congaline backdrop of international jets. George is a smartly dressed chap, not to be confused with Santo Cilauro, who stays cool under pressure and avoids, as best he can, getting “hippy hippy creeps” from unforeseen problems.

Today they include a suspicious-looking box and backpack left unattended in a public area and an international passenger arriving from Doha who vomited blood. With time running out of essence, the St. Johns Ambulance rolls into action ready for its arrival.

But Michelle, Duty Manager of the Integrated Operations Center, is not sure if the passenger will arrive conscious or not. She works in front of a wall of screens where every inch of the airport is under surveillance, coordinating the latest incident response with George and his team.

We also meet Nathan who works at home screening, the line of safety between landside and airside. An endless line of nearly 2 million people are scanned here every month. While scissors and knives are typical violations, some of the more bizarre items include a live rooster. What? A live bullet was found today, requiring the intervention of the AFP. As frustrating as security is, we thank you for keeping us all safe, Nathan.

Meanwhile, on the tarmac apron, Lead Load Dennis, who is of Filipino descent, has a challenge to turn the load onto a Boeing 777 in just 75 minutes, but a valance is inflated and may not fit. Any delays will have a knock-on effect for both passengers and other flights. In case you forgot, there’s a TV curfew to observe and Dennis coffee and banana bread to grab between jobs.

The idea that cargo won’t fit into an airliner’s hull isn’t exactly the highlight of the drama episodes, and the screentime seems generous considering, but we do meet Ramp Duty Manager Minas, who helps keep things on schedule. .

Finally there’s recently hired terminal supervisor Mal, formerly a painter and decorator (and former Qantas staffer), who is still learning the ropes under George’s supervision. Having just sorted the Doha passenger, he learns of a possible stroke victim in the arrivals hall. But as we quickly discover, having a stroke at Sydney Airport is one of the safest places in the city, with a response time down to minutes.

Seriously narrated by the versatile Brooke Satchwell, the series offers a wealth of insight into airport operations. There is some pixellation of the public and staff (airport signs warn the public of possible cameras and put the burden on passengers to ask not to be filmed in public areas).

Airport facts are not new, with previous headlines highlighting European, American and Asian airports, usually from the perspective of flustered travellers, appeased by pleasant staff. In Australia it has been largely the domain of the curmudgeon Border security. SBS takes a more inclusive approach to the hustle and bustle of the airport, with all its colorful cogs and workers humming in harmony… until those days when my luggage gets lost between Melbourne and Sydney. Hey George, I’ve got Hippy Hippy Milkshakes!

Inside Sydney Airport 7.30pm Thursday on SBS.