Aerial Filming for

Heathrow: Britain's Busiest Airport

At the start this year, before the world became a very different place. We were granted unprecedented access to the UK’s busiest airport to film for ITV’s Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport. For its sixth series, we gained permission to fly lower and closer to passenger jets than in any previous series.

The decision to allow us to hover tens of feet over the taxiways of one of the busiest airports in the world was not one that was taken lightly. Months of planning, phone calls and meetings took place in preparation for just two days of filming. We had to demonstrate that we were not only capable of capturing the desired footage, but to do so with complete safety.

Still image of British Airways jets whilst filming Heathrow Britains Busiest Airport.

The stakes were high. The consequences of an accident could be catastrophic. However, given the low altitude we would be flying at, collisions were a risk. Risk factors included taxiing aircraft and even airport service vehicles going about their daily routines. While these scenarios were very unlikely, many other minor incidents could still have had a severe knock-on effect. Near misses or disrupting the flow of traffic around the airport could lead to significant delays. Delays cost airlines thousands of pounds and disrupt passengers’ travel plans.

Any of those would have obviously been completely unacceptable, so along with diligent planning beforehand, came constant communication between Will and air traffic control during the shoot. Every aircraft arriving and departing were informed of our presence. As our aircraft carefully manoeuvred its way around the taxiways. We were informed of the aircraft around us as we updated them on our actions.

So, there was a lot going on for pilot Will Banks. Communicating with air traffic, keeping complete situational awareness of other aircraft and vehicles around the helicopter, 20ft above the tarmac, all while talking to Mike the camera operator and positioning to get the shots.

Image of Virgin Atlantic crew taken whilst filming for Heathrow Britains Busiest Airport.

The shot list for this project was extensive. And with only a small window of time to acquire them, the pressure was on. Fitted with the GSS C516, RED Epic Dragon and a 30-300mm lens, Mike and Will took G-TVGB and went about capturing everything from wide shots of the airport to closeups of pilots in their cockpits. But with this aerial filming project, there were no staged shots or events to capture. It was entirely on Will and Mike to find the shots they needed.

The result was nearly five hours of stunning footage that was to be used throughout the 12-episode series.

Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport is available to watch on ITVX.