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Thursday 5 March 2015

Joint Major Incident Exercise, Manchester Airport

As many of you will have seen over recent months the team has had a number of meetings and discussions with Manchester Airport that we've been very coy about.

Thursday evening, a departure from our normal training evening, was the culmination of that work. Manchester Airport conducted a major incident exercise on Thursday 5th March 2015 as part of their Civil Aviation Authority, Airport Certification.

This was a full-scale emergency exercise and incorporated the airport's emergency response plan and local authority emergency response.

The aim of this exercise was to enact the planned response to a major aviation incident at the airport. Bringing together all the departments of the airport and the local authorities that border the airport - delivering on a multi-agency response.

A number of agencies were involved; Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue, Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire and Rescue, Manchester Airport Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service.

As part of the multi-agency response, Cheshire Search and Rescue had been invited to run a separate but concurrent exercise. The aim of this was to test the team's capabilities and the realistic response they could provide to Manchester Airport and local authorities, in the event of a major incident at or near the airport.

The scenario for the evening was that the team had been called as a precautionary measure in response to the Major Incident that had been declared at Manchester Airport when a flight declared an emergency.

The flight crew had reported severe mechanical issues and were expecting control difficulties and potential loss of directional control on landing. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 had 6 Crew (2 Flight Deck, 4 Cabin Crew) and 63 passengers, with 3,000 kg of fuel on board.

A safe touch down was achieved on runway 23L but directional control (steering) was lost as speed decreased, leading to a runway excursion three quarters of the way down the runway.

The aircraft came to a halt with a nose wheel on the grass on the left hand side of the runway. The flight deck crew carried out the appropriate drills and initiated an evacuation. Passengers had evacuated using the slides and had dispersed from the aircraft, leaving 3 passengers on board who were either trapped or seriously injured, with no reported fatalities.

As a precaution the team had been asked to search the area around the Bollin River Tunnel under Runway 2, near where the aircraft touched down, for any parts of the aircraft that may have come off during the incident - as well as ensuring there are no walking wounded.

The task for the evening was to test the team's capability and as such was this was run as a real callout, with team members being notified of an immediate callout via the SARCALL alert system, with in excess of 60 members deploying. A number of foot search teams and a number of water search teams were deployed to ensure a rapid search of the footpaths for members of the public or passengers involved in the incident, followed by a more thorough search for potential aircraft parts associated with the incident (these were in fact simulated using toy aeroplanes), with the water teams searching for potentially perishable evidence lost in the water.

This major exercise allowed the team to bring together a wide variety of skills which have been developed over recent times, from our traditional search to our increased water capabilities all using the skills learnt on the recent introduction to hazard and evidence awareness course for air accident responders (more of which will follow soon).

As part of this multi-agency operation, the team extended an invite to our good friends Bolton Mountain Rescue, who sent a team of 11 members, some full and some welcome newer members to take part in this major incident exercise. This helped further our working relationship and allowed us to test how the teams would work realistically in the event of a declared major incident in Cheshire and the surrounding area, not just at the airport.

The evening went very well for both CSAR and Manchester Airport, with some key learning points being acknowledged and with these it will further increase the working relationship the team has with Manchester Airport, our neighbours and other emergency services.

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