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Last on

Fri 9 Mar 2012 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 09 March 2012

A radiophonic journey into the extraordinary world of an aerial crime fighter, peace invader, beholder of night visions and all-seeing eye.

Poet Paul Farley takes a journey into the London night aboard the Metropolitan Police helicopter. From its base deep in Epping Forest the city lights can be seen twinkling in the distance. Once the crew is scrambled and the helicopter takes off the illuminated metropolis begins to move beneath him as the the Air Support Unit dashes through the air from task to task. Be it searching for a missing person on a railway siding or a burglar hiding in gardens, taking on car pursuits or watching a house well out of earshot whilst an armed unit lays siege, it observes London and its inhabitants through thermal image cameras which turn night into day. What the naked eye sees, however, is a vision of sublime beauty as the electric city lights up.

Farley reflects on this world of transformation and in his poem, The Asset, the helicopter takes on a life of its own.

Producer Neil McCarthy.

  • Paul Farley next to "India 99" at the Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit in Epping Forest

    Paul Farley next to "India 99" at the Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit in Epping Forest

  • The crew has received a call from a unit in the city and the helicopter takes off to assist at dusk

    The crew has received a call from a unit in the city and the helicopter takes off to assist at dusk

    It takes thirteen minutes to fly from one side of London to the other

  • The Tactical Commander navigates the pilot to the exact location of the task

    The Tactical Commander navigates the pilot to the exact location of the task

    The screens in front of him display moving maps and thermal image detection on the ground and the cameras are operated by his observer in the cockpit

  • The view of the city from the cockpit at night

    The view of the city from the cockpit at night

  • Paul Farley preparing for lift off into the night

    Paul Farley preparing for lift off into the night

  • Day patrol over the Gerkin and St Paul's in The City

    Day patrol over the Gerkin and St Paul's in The City

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