Emergency response put to the test

Testing emergency response procedures and processes on an operational airfield used by military and civilian aircraft is no easy feat.

CAPTION: Air Force fire fighters evacuate a simulated casualty from a PC-21 aircraft during a crash exercise at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. Story by Wing Commander Sue Yates. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.

But this is what RAAF Base Williamtown personnel, local state emergency services representatives, Newcastle Airport Limited staff and the Search and Rescue team managed to do.

The RAAF Base Williamtown crash exercise was designed to test the base’s airfield emergency response plan and command and control structures under simulated conditions.

The demanding scenario first involved an airborne F-35A Lightning II developing a technical fault that required an immediate return to RAAF Base Williamtown, and use of an aircraft arrestor cable to safely bring the aircraft to a stop.

Shortly after, a second scenario featured a ground collision between an E-7A Wedgetail and PC-21 that resulted in multiple non-life threatening injuries, and use of locally based search-and-rescue helicopters to conduct a medivac of one member to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.

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CAPTION: Air Force members conduct a simulated crash exercise at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.

Group Captain Anthony Stainton, of RAAF Base Williamtown, said these types of exercises are conducted regularly.

“They provide opportunity for a number of elements on the base to practise their response to an emergency situation,” Group Captain Stainton said.

“The scenario developed by RAAF personnel enabled us to familiarise and test our plans and our communication strategies and, in this instance, it provided opportunity to work with external agencies who similarly tested their emergency plans.”

Group Captain Stainton said a lot of good lessons came out of the exercise.

“The logistics implications of large-scale and complex ‘emergencies’ like this are always going to be challenging given our current operations, but our ability to respond quickly and cohesively is essential,” he said.

“The use of multiple aircraft and simultaneous incidents in this exercise is a reflection of Defence operating various aircraft fleets based at RAAF Williamtown and identifying contingency airfield operations.”

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CAPTION: Air Force members assist a simulated casualty during a crash exercise at RAAF Base Williamtown. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Samuel Miller.


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