Engineer Mitch Evans wears a red cotton safety suit as he hauls himself through a small porthole in the side of the giant Airbus 380, crawling 11 metres deep to where the aircraft’s fuel tanks are housed to repair a faulty valve.
The tanks have already been drained of six swimming pools worth of fuel and his colleagues have carried out 250 safety tests before he’s allowed on board to sort out the problem in what he calls a potentially “exploding shoe box”.
His head cam shows his progress inside this frighteningly confined space.
This was one of the most gripping moments in the premiere of the second series of Ready for Take Off on Channel Nine on Friday night.
The episode opened with the PR-approved line, “It’s a Proud Australian with a safety record second to none,” but, if you’re fascinated by flying and could sleep through the Spin, it was an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look.
We saw a pixellated, clearly drunk passenger in Perth – one of the so-called Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) Port Hedland workers – being calmly managed by customer services representative Paul Clarke.
The drunk made a threat to baggage handlers and the police were called. He called crew “idiots” and asked, “do you think I’m going to be a terrorist or something?” before being allowed to leave with his final, “take that camera out or I will shove it right up your…” comment.
In Brisbane, compliance officer David Reid, who cops flak from his mates at work for looking a bit like superman, lived up to his alter-ego by singlehandedly reloading cargo after a plane is three hours late, playing havoc with the cargo handling rosters.
He was a dab hand on the pallet moving machinery and had the job done in just 25 minutes. Every minute wasted costs the airline $100 in late departure charges so time is always of the essence.
In Melbourne, Emma Tonkin, an airport customer experience manager, had to deal with the arrival of Richard – a passenger who’d had a possible heart attack during a flight from Los Angeles. Naturally, all the processes were in place and Richard headed off to hospital in the care of the medics.
“Always by the book with us,” Emma said to the camera.
Other airline staff around the country hunted down lost passengers and calmed those passengers delayed by rotten Sydney weather, while Captain Bruce Simpson showed us a take off in a flight simulator.
Perhaps most bizarrely, one of the longest segments featured the runway trainer extraordinaire, Miss Jay – fresh from America’s Next Top Model – who had been brought to Australia specifically to help the airline launch its new pilots uniform at a fashion parade.
Sixty pilots (male and female) needed to be taught how to “walk” the runway in front of 400 dignitaries and celebrities.
And what’s a series without some romance? In a cute story to end the episode, two of the original choristers from one of the most memorable “I Still Call Australia Home” advertisements, Paul and Elle, returned to Uluru where they had met at aged 9 and 10.
Paul secretly organised the trip for Elle and proposed to her in front of Uluru in the dying minutes of the show.
It’s a Friday night, kick back and relax, nothing new sort of show but, as someone who travels a lot, I was intrigued by the behind the scenes action. No doubt the airline will be delighted with the result as well.
Ready for Takeoff airs Fridays at 7.30pm on Channel Nine.