Emergency enactment puts airport to the test
IT’S been pouring with rain for days. Visibility is low, the ground is wet and there’s a kangaroo on the runway.
The Jetstar A320 landing at Whitsunday Coast Airport swerves as the pilot makes an involuntary decision to try to avoid the marsupial. He loses control and the plane skids off the runway.
A wing breaks off and the flaming plane comes to rest in a waterlogged paddock on the airfield. There are casualties everywhere and at least one person is dead.
What happens next could be anyone’s guess or it could be part of an organised response – and that’s what was enacted last week.
Exercise Kangaroo Hazard Exists took place at Whitsunday Coast Airport on Friday and was part of a biennial fullscale emergency response involving the deployment of emergency services, equipment and resources.
A Whitsunday Transit bus stood in for the crashed A320 and its injured passengers were local air force cadets. Emergency services arrived in real time, with police taking about five minutes to be first on the scene, closely followed by fire services and finally the paramedics.
All the emergency personnel agreed the exercise went well, but equally all could see the challenges they’d face if such a large-scale disaster was to really occur.
Proserpine Fire Station captain Mike Sunderland said for an auxiliary station based 10–15 minutes away, a situation like this would be a real test, requiring resources “from far and wide”.
Proserpine officer-incharge Acting Sergeant Mark Flynn said police would need to draw on resources from Proserpine, Whitsunday and Mackay.
Whitsunday Coast Airport operations manager Tony Schulz said this was probably the largest scale exercise in seven years, designed to eval- uate the airport’s emergency plan and help review the procedures in place.
He was assisted in this evaluation by aerodrome operations support director Andrew Stewart and Mackay Airport manager of aviation operations Phil Clark, both of whom were full of praise for everyone involved.
Mr Stewart said most impressive was the high level of communication between all response units, right through to the baggage handling staff.
IN RECOVERY: Members of the Proserpine and Abbot Point Rural Fire Brigades assisted in the recovery of "injured" actors at last week's airport emergency exercise. DISASTER STRIKES: Air Force Cadet Adam Edgar pretends to be walking away from the scene of a re-enacted A320 aircraft crash at the Whitsunday Coast Airport last week.
Photos: Sharon Smallwood