Omaha Airport Conducts Full-Scale Emergency Simulation

OAA fire crews work to put out the blazing fuselage.

The Omaha Airport Authority (OAA) conducted its triennial full-scale emergency exercise on Saturday. The event simulated an airline Boeing 737 departure accident at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield with 74 passengers on board.

For this year’s event, the exercise included an aircraft fire trainer, nearly 150 volunteers and 17 different agencies. Some volunteers acted as the passengers’ family and friends in the terminal while most were injured or deceased passengers near the crash site, testing the reactiveness of the airport’s first responders.

A fire training fuselage sits on the cargo ramp prior to the triennial exercise. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

To add to the realism of the scenario, victims spent time with makeup artists who added seemingly-real cuts and bruises to their bodies, which first responders would undoubtedly see in the unlikely event that a scenario such as this becomes real. Volunteers were also assigned a role and wore tags that stated their age and symptoms. First responders used these tags to determine what kind of treatment would be needed.

Showtime

At 9 a.m., the call came out that an aircraft crashed. At that time, the aircraft trainer, filled with propane and used to allow fire extinguishment training, began to smoke. A few minutes later, the trainer was engulfed in flames, mimicking the fire that would result due to the large amount of fuel that any given aircraft carries on every flight.

An aircraft fire trainer burns on the Eppley cargo ramp. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

The Omaha Airport Authority Fire Department arrived in force and began to immediately douse the burning trainer. In order, the Omaha Fire Department arrived and began setting up shop to help combat the inferno and treating the injured. The firefighters connected their hoses to a nearby fire hydrant and began assisting in spraying the mock fuselage.

Omaha Airport Authority engine 12 rolls up to the mock crash site. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)
OAA fire crews work to put out the blazing fuselage. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

While all of this was taking place, the OAA fire chief and police department arrived with local airline personnel to set up a mobile command. With the blaze out, the fire crews entered the trainer and extracted some manikins, acting as passengers, onboard the singed aircraft.

Omaha Fire Engine 22 arrives to assist the OAA fire crews. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

The next process in the simulation was to get the victims set in place. Some volunteers laid on the ground unmoving, simulating the deceased, while others wondered around showing signs of confusion and head trauma. Fire crews and EMTs began searching the victims and completing quick assessments to determine who needs immediate treatment.

Volunteers begin acting as victims of the crash. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)
A volunteer victim stands ready for transport to a nearby hospital. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

Those needing immediate treatment were either worked on site or were placed into ambulances for transport. Victims placed in ambulances were then taken to nearby hospitals where the simulation continued. The exercise even flew in a LifeNet helicopter to transport a victim in dire need of care.

A patient is loaded into an ambulance to be transported to a nearby hospital partaking in the exercise. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)
An exercise evaluator observes the fire crews searching victims. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

The exercise even included the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s simulation in a Motion Nebraska truck. The truck is set up like an operating room in one half, and an ambulance in the back half and equipped with a speech and motion-capable manikin. The manikin has moving eyes, a pulse and active blood pressure. The practice patient even has a fetus inside the body for medics to practice on pregnant crash victims.

A manikin lays inside the UNMC Simulation in Motion Nebraska truck. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

While victims and the deceased were being treated, other agencies focused on getting to the bottom of why the crash occurred. In a field near the mock crash site, a debris field was set up for the area police to perform forensic investigations.

The OAA Fire Chief monitors the mobile command post during a simulator airliner crash. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Matthew Garcia)

The full-scale training took a year to plan and tested the response of Omaha area first responders, preparing them for a real mass casualty event at the airport. The exercise is mandatory per the Federal Aviation Administration for airports holding a Class I Airport Operating Certificate under Title 14 CFR Part 139, according to an OAA press release.

While the FAA only requires a full-scale exercise take place triennially, the OAA and all participating agencies conduct a tabletop exercise where the various agencies talk through the response to a specific incident.

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia became interested in aviation at the age of 12 when he installed Microsoft Flight Simulator X on his computer. He was instantly "bitten by the bug" and has been in love with aviation ever since. Matthew took his first introductory flight in 2013 and began normal flight training in February of 2015. Over the years, Matthew's love and knowledge for aviation has grown tremendously, mainly due to FSX. Garcia flies highly advanced aircraft in a professional manner on a highly complex virtual air traffic network simulating real world flying. In 2016 Matthew achieved his private pilot certificate from the FAA. Now he studies journalism at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Matthew Garcia