View Full Version : BBC drama to show London mid-air

8th May 2003, 02:40
BBC Two - Tuesday, May 13

'The Day That Britain Stopped' looks at how years of poor planning and underinvestment had pushed every system to the limit and, on December 19 2003, a string of events brought matters to a tragic end.

Things begin at 08:00 with a national 24-hour train strike, prompted by safety fears after a crash near Edinburgh earlier in the month.

Two lorry crashes on the M25 forced the motorway to be closed in both directions. Tailbacks piled up at the rate of a mile every minute. The M1, with extra traffic heading for Manchester's Old Trafford stadium for a football international locked up, as did the M2 and M4.

Soon the country's network of roads was at a standstill, with thousands trapped in their cars.

The traffic situation led to further chaos as air traffic controllers were unable to get to work, a state of affairs that led to a tragic mistake as two aircraft collide over West London.

Just the thing to cheer us all up...

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8th May 2003, 04:16
And in the evening Ian Duncan Smith decided to resign, since he realised he was about as intelligent as a small fury animal in Dorset, and has as much hope in reaching number 10 as Saddam has in going back to Baghdad.

So not all bad news then...

simon brown
8th May 2003, 21:54
...said aircraft crash into Houses of Parliamant during a full session thereby wiping out all government and MPs. Local government tries to takeover and raises poll taxes. Rioting through out the country. HM forces cant afford/dont have the equipment to respond.George Galloway whom is away in his holiday retreat returns to UK and organises a coup and installs Saddam Hussain as deputy Prime Minister ( at least the trains and buses would run on time) and Ousts the royal Family. Galloway sets up a company called Great Britain PLC to enhance his personal finances. Americans Bomb UK, France standsby and watches. Millions of UK assylum seakers arrive in Balkans and are told to F off. UK as a nation makes a cup of tea, ( mustnt grumble etc etc...)people in Tunbridge wells complain about the effect its had on their house prices. Manchester United lose 360-0 to Saddam Utd (on account of entire first team injury) in the FA Cup according to Comical Ali the new FA spokesman. Americans invade UK. Jay Leno fronts Noos at 10. The nation puts on weight. A shipcarying an illegal cargo of tea is impounded in Tilbury harbour.....

8th May 2003, 22:13
And the Italians, trying to reclaim their empire, send their troops to the outermost reaches of all the UK and Europe, again.

All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?


8th May 2003, 23:04
They gave us delicasies such as Badger's Earlobes! Wolf Nipple Chips!

simon brown
8th May 2003, 23:27
They gave us a wall to keep the Scots out/English in depending on your point of view...

9th May 2003, 05:34
The Aquaduct.

Gets coat, leaves.

9th May 2003, 06:58
The film is billed as a 'docudrama' :rolleyes:

About as docu. as all those 1970's disaster movies eg 'Earthquake' or all the 'Airport 7x movies. :*

9th May 2003, 17:16
Mega over-complicated scenario dreamt up by the Beeb. Usually a half-inch of snow is all thats needed.

Charlie Foxtrot India
9th May 2003, 22:23
Voice Over (Michael): And now over on BBC1, the Nine O'Clock News, lots of stories about British people complaining about things, and ferries sinking in the Philippines, while here on BBC2...
Terry J: It's not fair
Michael: What?
Terry J: It's not fair
Michael: What isn't
Terry J: They always get to be BBC1
John: We're just as good
Michael: But they are BBC1
John: Well, only because they say they are. I mean, we should be BBC1 sometimes.
Terry J: Yes, our turn!
Michael: All right. This channel is now BBC1.
John: For the rest of the evening.
Terry J: And tomorrow. (A hand peels off the BBC2 logo)
Michael: Despite what they're saying over on BBC1

12th May 2003, 22:59
They must have a lot of our licence money left to spend!


14th May 2003, 06:48
Just seen the programme. Pretty scary stuff, and at times well researched. Obviously there were a few nitpicks etc and some of what happened was just unrealistic.

However, the scenario of the mid-air collision is one that has been a concern for a long time, and it's only through good luck that it hasn't happened yet in the UK. The collision incident here is based on the real near-miss that happened at LHR when an aircraft on a go-around narrowly missed departing traffic.

You can watch the whole programme on RealPlayer on the webpage (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_day_britain_stopped/default.stm) It is 90 minutes long though!

There is also a graphic illustration of the crash scenario step by step, and a guide to the real 'Operation Gridlock', for the roads, which has not yet been needed.

One question, do the contingency plans for LHR being closed with huge stacks of waiting traffic include diversions if necessary to military airfields eg Lyneham/Brize Norton? If so that was not included in the film.

What made the film really authentic was the use of real TV and radio news people, from Channel 4's John Snow to Sky TV and BBC TV and radio people - Even Gary Lineker on Match of the Day who informs the public that the International friendly at Old Trafford has been cancelled due to the huge travel problems......and this is even before the air disaster. The film is not based on a 70s disaster movie as some have speculated above and is actually at times uncannily realistic.

14th May 2003, 07:43
It was entertaining but in no way was it 'highly likely' to occur in real life. The events protraid with the LATCC final director desperately trying to call LHR tower controller blew it to pieces and showed how poor the research was.

I blieve that they tweaked it and made a totally unrealistic scenario just to achieve sensationalism. Their aim was to entertain rather than stimulate debate. Totally dumbed down in order to create a scenario.

Just sent this comment to the BBC:I found the programme, as a drama, entertaining. However, as an airline pilot with a limited understanding of Air Traffic Control procedures, the 'dumbing down' of the events leading to the mid-air collision was poorly researched and only served to sensationalise a highly unlikely scenario. It failed to take into account established missed approach procedures and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) equipment in the aircraft as well as the controllers and the pilots skills and situational awareness. The claims of in-depth research by the programme makers has to be misleading simply because of this oversight. In the end it appears to have been 'tweaked' to serve the programmes ultimate aim which can only be sensational entertainment rather than informed debate.

Have your say there too. Just go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/the_day_britain_stopped/2989691.stm

14th May 2003, 08:38
One of the comments on the BBC site:

"As an air traffic controller I feel very dismayed as you continue your sensationalist and inaccurate portrayal of the air traffic service provided in this country. Safety is always our first priority in our planning and implementation of those plans."

If you look at the thread on the ATC forum one controller has a similar opinion. With me not being familiar with ATC procedures they are in a better position to judge that the whole sequence leading up to the mid-air was sensational nonsense. Even so, there was a similar near miss at LHR a few years ago, but no doubt the lead up to that incident was entirely different.

On the other hand there are a lot of reports of low morale among ATCers due to their huge workload and also reports that safety is sometimes compromised due to overloading.

Dr Illitout
14th May 2003, 16:58
I'm amazed that B.A. allowed it's name to be used!.....or did it?. It is also supprizing that the Beeb didn't try to drag a "Budget" airline into it. Oh yes the TCAS didn't work so it was all an engineers fault!!!!!!:D

14th May 2003, 17:08
I'm amazed that BA allowed its name to be used!...or did it?

I understand that BA didn't explicitly permit the use of its brand and name and is (probably quite rightly) fairly narked about the whole affair. I heard that it has put out a statement disassociating itself from the programme.

14th May 2003, 17:20
I thought that the most believable bit was that all leaves were on the trees on the Friday before Christmas - global warming is obviously the real thing to worry about.:ugh:

14th May 2003, 17:31
I think the moral of the story is: don't make extraordinary efforts to get on a flight you're otherwise going to miss; it's just asking for trouble...;)

14th May 2003, 19:17
Even so, there was a similar near miss at LHR a few years ago, but no doubt the lead up to that incident was entirely different.

Hence a 'lesson learnt', the tightening up of procedures and the introduction of, for example, the Go Around alarm.

14th May 2003, 19:39
Didn't get to see it last night, is it being repeated?

14th May 2003, 20:09
BDiONU. I would be intersted to know what the procedures are for a go-around (including the go around alarm) at Heathrow. Can you walk us through them, it should be quite interesting.

Is there, for example, a certain number of miles a departing ac must go before it crosses the landing runway centreline to avoid crossing the path of a go-around?

14th May 2003, 22:43

A scriptwriter/producer devises a profoundly unlikely combination of circumstances that lead to a quite contrived disaster of some sort. Apart from using current documentary presentation techniques, what's not like a 1970's disaster movie?

Of the one's I mentioned plus the Beeb's effort I think 'Earthquake' is the better 'documentary'. At least it was more realistic.

simon brown
14th May 2003, 22:49

Apart from using current documentary presentation techniques, what's not like a 1970's disaster movie?

I agree, short of the child requiring dyalasis in the traffic jam, half an inch of snow and a bomb damaged aircraft trying to return, this was Airport all over again....

14th May 2003, 22:59
I wonder if, on the The Professional Policeman's RUmour NEtwork, they're all saying how unrealistic the traffic jams were: Oh it was so like that scene from "Independence Day", but that was so much more realistic... :rolleyes:

If they'd really wanted to inject some reality, they would have had the firemen out on strike as well ;)

14th May 2003, 23:08
One Copper on the BBC website commented that the traffic jams very very realistic and plausible.

Tinstaafl, obviously there was a lot of embellishment to make the programme more dramatic, it was meant to be entertainment after all, but despite a lot of errors in the detail it also raised some serious questions. Have a look at the thread on the ATC forum.

15th May 2003, 00:29

You can watch it all on-line by clicking HERE (http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/cta/progs/03/one_offs/britainstopped13may.ram)

Hope that helps.



15th May 2003, 01:00
This is an extract from the ATC Forum (as I'm not a Heathrow controller):

The missed approach alarm is pressed by the tower arrivals controller in the event of a go-around. It sets off simultaneous alarms in TC, Thames Radar and Northolt and is paticularly useful in the event of an unexpected go-around.

The standard missed approach is designed to keep the go-around away from departing traffic (for example with comms failure), however the departures and arrivals controllers tend to be more proactive, providing early turns, altitude restrictions etc.

The worst case scenario, is CSA going round off 09L with radio fail and not following the standard missed approach(as it didn't in the TV show) and the northbound departure off 09R getting airborne and switching over frequency to London before being instructed to.

15th May 2003, 07:17
It all seemed very feasible to we earthbound misfits up to the go around sequence. Can't remember which way around the runways were, but if they were using 27L as the take off runway, then surely, no aircraft using 27R to land, faced with a go arung call from the ground would turn left to encroach on the flightpath of A/C taking off from 27L:confused: Shame really 'cos until then it all seemed quite plausible and rather scareing

15th May 2003, 21:04
what is the general view of air traffic control??

are they respected as intellectual pros, that remain calm under pressure and work to the limit of their endurance?

or are they all "Eddie punch clocks" whos greatest achievment in life was being on the wheel of fortune. I cant decide!!!

16th May 2003, 01:59
The "go around alarm" has been in existance for many many years, certainly at least 11 and I suspect a great deal longer.

As a piece of drama it was scaremongering to a high degree.
The inaccuracies in procedure were many, that isn't to say that a midair could not or would not occur and as ATCOs we are not complacent .

Read the ATC forums view on the programme for those with little knowledge it would be enlightning. To most of the general viewing public we are the guys with Ping Pong bats , so I assume they believe every bit of the [email protected] that was purported to be ATC in this BBC Drama.

Wedge the answer to the question of Diversions, each aircraft will have filed a diversionary airfield in its flightplan . If that airfield is unavailable then an alternative will be found including if necessary Military airfields such as Brize and Lyneham who themselves use Civil airfields as Diversion airfilelds for their flights if necessary, however Flow control would have been imposed long before this happened and fewer aircraft would have been holding than was expressed in this Drama.