Annual aircraft crash and rescue exercise puts airport’s ability to handle unique emergency situation to test

Posted: 27 November 2013 | Hong Kong International Airport | No comments yet

The annual aircraft crash and rescue exercise was held this morning at HKIA…

The annual aircraft crash and rescue exercise was held this morning at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), testing for the first time the airport’s ability to handle a radioactive material contamination combined with a plane crash scenario. By the end of the exercise, HKIA demonstrated successfully its capabilities in responding to and then containing a radiation leak caused by the mock crash of an aircraft carrying medical-use radioactive material.

The annual crash exercise is held each year to test the effectiveness of the airport community, Government departments and relevant organisations in dealing with aircraft accidents, and to practise their intra- and inter-organisational emergency responses and communications. More than 450 representatives from over 20 Government departments and organisations took part. Cathay Pacific Airways was the participating airline this year, and more than 300 volunteers from seven organisations and universities participated as passengers and reporters.

The exercise began at 0230hrs when a notional flight had a hard landing on the South Runway and the left main landing gear collapsed. The hard landing resulted in the fuselage break up as the aircraft lurched to the portside, triggering friction between the engine cowling and ground surface and causing one of the engines to catch fire. A unit load device holding medical-use radioactive material was thrown clear of the aircraft and sustained damage at the same time. While evacuating the aircraft, 10 passengers were contaminated by radioactive material.

The air traffic control tower witnessed the accident and immediately activated the crash alarm, alerting relevant parties. The Airport Emergency Centre was also activated to facilitate close communications and effective coordination. Upon confirmation from the airline that dangerous goods were on board, the Fire Services Department’s Hazard Management Team was called to the site while the Airport Fire Contingent began to set up a temporary decontamination facility at the apron.

A total of 80 simulated injuries, 10 deaths, and 10 contamination cases were reported. As part of the airport’s medical response procedures, the injured were sent to seven different hospitals. Uninjured passengers and crew members were evacuated and sent to the Passenger Reception Centre for Immigration, Police and Customs clearance. A Family Reception Centre was also set up at the Regal Airport Hotel.

As an integral part of the exercise, Airport Authority Hong Kong (the AA) and other involved organisations, including Cathay Pacific Airways, the Civil Aviation Department, Fire Services Department and Hong Kong Police Force, jointly held a simulated press conference. Around 30 journalism students from Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong Shue Yan University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong acted as reporters and followed up the incident. The exercise stood down at 0800hrs.

C K Ng, Executive Director, Airport Operations of the AA, said, “The annual exercise provides a valuable opportunity for the whole airport community to test their readiness during an emergency. Also, the North Lantau Hospital that has commenced services in phases since September joined this year’s exercise as well. Their active participation, together with the lessons and experience gained today, will help us refine our contingency measures and better prepare us for future challenges.

“Safety is the airport’s top priority at all times,” Mr Ng continued “At HKIA, we promote this by establishing guidelines, best practices, staff training, promotional campaigns and performance targets for the whole airport community. We also advocate work safety awareness among staff to prevent accidents caused by human acts.”

In addition to the annual crash exercise required by aerodrome licensing requirements, HKIA conducts about 100 drills, exercises and training seminars every year covering various aspects of operational safety. These include emergency responses for aircraft accidents and security incidents, as well as business continuity responses for situations such as adverse weather, severe flight disruptions, land transportation disruptions, and public health/ infectious disease scenarios.

Active participants in today’s drill included:

Government Departments

 Airport Fire Contingent

Airport Port Health Office/ Department of Health

Auxiliary Medical Service

Civil Aviation Department

Customs and Excise Department

Fire Services Department; Ambulance Command

Fire Services Department; Hazard Management Team

Home Affairs Department

Hong Kong Police Force (Airport District)

Hospital Authority and the following public hospitals:

  • Caritas Medical Centre
  • North Lantau Hospital
  • Prince of Wales Hospital
  • Princess Margaret Hospital
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Tuen Mun Hospital
  • Yan Chai Hospital

Immigration Department

Business Partners

Airport Chaplaincy

Aviation Security Company Ltd

Cathay Pacific Airways

Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co. Ltd.

Hong Kong Airport Services Ltd.

Raffles Medical Group

Regal Airport Hotel

Other Organisations

Hong Kong Baptist University

Hong Kong Shue Yan University

Hong Kong St. John Ambulance

Hong Kong Red Cross

The Chinese University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong


Agency for Volunteer Service

City University of Hong Kong

Civil Aid Service

HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education

Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps

Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Tsing Yi)

Hong Kong Red Cross

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