FINDLAY TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Emergency workers and volunteers from around the area joined with Pittsburgh International Airport officials Thursday for an emergency management drill.
If you didn’t know what was going on at the airport, you might have thought it was real life.
It takes at least a year’s worth of planning to perform a full-scale emergency drill like the one that took place Thursday evening.
“A tire on the left main gear blew out, causing the aircraft to unexpectedly swerve to the left. The pilot aborted takeoff, but was unable to keep aircraft on runway,” said Bob Kerlik, an airport spokesman, at the staged news conference.
In this particular scenario, the plane was taking off from Pittsburgh and headed to Yakima, Washington, with 82 people on board.
Eventually, the right wing of the plane touched the ground, and then the plane hit a diesel truck causing fuel to leak across the road, threatening local wetlands.
“It is comforting knowing that they have these protocol in place that they have to follow so they’re prepared,” said Aaron Pickering, a volunteer.
Pickering was one of the volunteers playing the role of passenger. He experienced slight bruising on his forearm.
“They’re separating everybody into people that need more critical care right away and people that are able to get passes to walk on their own,” said Sarah Levine, another volunteer.
“One of the most important things at an airport is that it’s safe. If it’s not safe, nothing else matters,” said Christina Cassotis, the CEO of Allegheny Airport Authority. “All work we do bringing in airlines, all the work we do rehabbing the facility, taking care of customers, won’t matter if it’s not safe.”
Cassotis says this type of drill is mandated by the FAA every three years. However, the airport participates in several table top exercises throughout the year.
She says it’s crucial that airport emergency responders learn to collaborate with local mutual aid companies from surrounding townships in the event that a crash would happen.
“We do a lot of planning and exercises throughout the year. Our operations work very closely with airport as well,” said Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson.
Cassotis says in recent years, social media has probably impacted the managing of emergency services the most. Normal airport operations were not affected by the exercise.