Documentary reveals Edinburgh Airport dramas

The goings-on at the airport are being highlighted in the new BBC documentary. Picture: PHIL WILKINSON
The goings-on at the airport are being highlighted in the new BBC documentary. Picture: PHIL WILKINSON
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Chaos as a baggage belt fails on the busiest day of the year, confused passengers holding their face against the “face down” boarding pass scanners . . . it’s all in a day’s work at Scotland’s busiest airport.

Staff are set to star in a two-part fly-on-the-wall documentary about life behind the Turnhouse scenes.

And things don’t always run smoothly as viewers of BBC One Scotland will discover tomorrow. Inside Edinburgh Airport follows some of the 2500 people who work at the airport, allowing travellers to finally put a face to the voice of the Tannoy announcements, 59-year-old Lorraine Morley, of Colinton.

Viewers will also meet duty manager Lorna Firth, 31, from Bathgate, and discover just what Oxgangs’ Stevie Muir, 40, does as an airside operations duty manager; as well as finding that chief operating officer David Wilson, 46, is quite happy to be hands on when the situation demands.

Operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, Edinburgh Airport processes an average of 30,000 passengers a day – nearly ten million a year.

With more than 300 flights a day taking off and landing, it is the sixth busiest airport in the UK.

So who keeps it all working behind the scenes? As you check in, just how does your baggage find its way to the right plane?

And what happens when things go wrong?

In the first episode, the airport is undergoing major changes.

Originally built to carry one million passengers a year, can it cope with ten times as many during the busiest year in its history?

As new boarding-pass security scanners cause confusion, passengers are told “face down” refers to their boarding pass.

There is also the drama of the broken baggage belt which sees management descend to the shop floor to assist as 40,000 passengers attempt to pass through the airport.

• Inside Edinburgh Airport, tomorrow and next Thursday, BBC One Scotland, 9pm

FROM MUSICAL THEATRE TO TERMINAL ACTION

DUTY manager Lorna Firth, from Bathgate, originally trained in musical theatre.

“I had set up my own business, a theatre group, and started off at the airport as a seasonal security guard. I found I really enjoyed it and worked my way up,” she says.

That was ten years ago. In tomorrow’s episode, the 31-year-old can be found keeping a calm head as the airport is thrown into turmoil as the baggage belts break down on

the busiest day in the operation’s history.

“Nothing can prepare you for a day like that. You just have work around it, but while to passengers it might look a bit chaotic, we do know what we need to do.

“As long as you speak to them and have a laugh, that’s all they expect really. You can tell the passengers you can chat to, and if you can get them in a good mood, that rubs off on those around them.”

Her most bizarre experience, however, was assisting an old man with narcolepsy through security.

“Every time he got a rush of emotion, whether it be happy, sad, angry . . . he would just conk out and collapse on the floor,” she recalls.

“We were trying to get him through security and he collapsed in the search area. You had to leave him to come around himself – his wife just stepped

over the top of him to collect their bags.

“It was so funny, he would look at me and go, ‘I’m away again hen’.”

Despite her performing background, Lorna’s admits she’s not looking forward to seeing herself on the small screen.

“I have not told anybody,” she laughs, “and as I’m going off on maternity leave soon, I’ll not have to go through the summer with everyone saying, ‘I saw you on telly’.”

‘I used to use my Tannoy to get kids to the table’

“THEY have a few names for me here,” laughs Lorraine Morley. “They call me Mother or Ma. Mrs M is another one I get. I very seldom get my own name,” says the 59-year-old from Colinton, whose voice is instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever flown from Edinburgh.

Lorraine is the airport’s Tannoy announcer, or to give her the correct title, control centre assistant. With 25 years’ service, Lorraine started as a security officer.

“One of the strangest things I ever saw in security was a little dog, hidden in a French lady’s shopping bag. She put it through the X-ray and all we saw was a mass of organic matter . . . and when it came out the other end, the bag was moving,” she laughs. “Poor little thing.”

Today, however, the grandmother is better known as the voice of the airport. “I used to do my Tannoy voice for the grandchildren to get them to the table for Sunday lunch,” she smiles, before revealing the secrets of being a good announcer.

“You must speak slowly, clearly and precisely. Try not to put too much accent on and remember all your Ts and your Gs,” Lorraine says.

Unfazed by the attention tomorrow’s episode might bring her, Lorraine reveals: “Some people already do recognise me, just by voice.”

Security officer who had to frisk Sean Connery

AIRSIDE operations duty manager Stevie Muir admits he felt “nervous anticipation” when he discovered a film crew would be following him as he did his job.

“They were there filming me for a couple of shifts, but after a while, we didn’t even notice.

We just acted exactly as we would normally have done,” says the 40-year-old.

Stevie runs the small team that “maintains the health and safety of the airfield”. One of its biggest challenges being bird control. “We have to mitigate against bird strikes through wildlife hazard management,” he explains, adding that the use of firearms and lethal force is just one of the options available.

“People think we are bird scarers. We don’t scare them. We aim to control them. If you scare them they could go in any direction and what you don’t want is them going into the back of an aircraft.”

With 18 years’ service at the airport, Stevie recalls that a highlight from his time as a security officer was frisking Sir Sean Connery.

“That was a bit daunting,” he confesses. “As he came through he set off the metal detector and I had to step forward and ask if he minded if I gave him a check. But he was absolutely lovely about it.”

And Stevie has already had a taste of the recognition that could follow tomorrow’s broadcast. “There’s already been a trailer shown – after it I was approached in my local newsagents,” he laughs.

We want to be the best in world’

ONE man who has already had a sneak preview of tomorrow’s programme is 46-year-old chief operating officer David Wilson.

“I saw a rough cut about six weeks ago, and although they’ve done a great job of getting under the skin of what makes an airport tick, seeing myself on television is not something I find pleasurable I’m afraid,” laughs the former Firrhill High pupil, adding: “I’ll be shaving my beard off as soon as it’s broadcast and that will be me incognito once again.”

David started work at the airport in 1993 as a firefighter. He says: “When I first walked into Edinburgh Airport, the terminal was half its current size. Now we have a route network that takes us to a number of destinations in North America, the Middle East . . . much bigger operations. The levels of service, especially in the last 18 months, since GIP bought the place, have improved significantly.

“The people working at Edinburgh Airport are there to make sure that you get through as efficiently as possible.

“We want to be the best airport in the world. We have already been voted the best airport in Europe three years in a row, and I’m not going to accept second best.”