Following the process of big machines undergoing autopsies has been a unique way of discovering exactly how these beasts work.
Indeed while every component that’s torn apart on these man made beasts offers a new insight into engineering secrets, the most unexpected revelations have been the way in that each machine engenders passionate responses from the men and women who work with them.
Millions have travelled on Jumbo Jets, but few understand the technical achievements that make it fly. So we were thrilled when British Airways let us into their enormous facility in Cardiff, where planes go every six years to be completely stripped down. It’s the first time this safety check has been filmed and reveals how everything from black boxes (actually orange) to escape chutes work. It’s also exciting to explore the secret compartments where the crew can sleep, and climb inside the massive fuel tanks to see how they’re made.
The scrapping of a North Sea platform, after producing gas for 40 years, provides the perfect chance to discover engineering secrets of how gas gets from under the seabed into our homes.
But we were surprised to discover the emotional attachments the men, known as the North Sea Tigers, forged with this massive rig. Some of them, who built it for 40 years ago and then lived on it, are now overseeing its decommissioning. For them, the moment the final scrapped steel is sent for recycling marks the end of an era that frames their working lives.
On the cross channel ferry the major overhaul in dry dock, to extend the ship’s life by ten years, is the only chance to explore the part of the ship that really matters – its underwater hull, massive propellers and special rudders that are designed for maximum manoeuvrability.