Drill Readies Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport for the Worst

PITTSTON TWP. -- Seeing heavy black smoke and the rush of emergency vehicles making their way toward the scene near the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport on Saturday, a driver might have worried that a plane crashed.

A crash didn't happen, but training for one did.

The airport held a live accident response drill to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's Regulation 139, which requires airports to conduct a major live disaster exercise.

Airports must display a response drill once every three years said airport Assistant Director Michael Conner.

A burning school bus was used to imitate an airplane inferno. Another school bus that wasn?t burned allowed firefighters and rescue workers to duplicate an actual rescue drill. The bus was filled with people wearing makeup and dressed in disaster garb.

?The drill will test the Airport Accident Response Plan, demonstrate the ability of the communities to deal effectively with aircraft disasters and provide disaster training for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighters and supporting agencies,? said airport Director Barry Centini.

The drill involved 50-60 participants including airport firefighters, local firefighters, area ambulances, and a helicopter for a life-flight operation. The exercise also involved community agencies, such as the Lackawanna and Luzerne County emergency management agencies and communication centers and the American Red Cross. Several volunteers participated in the drill acting as injured passengers.

Some of the local firefighter groups were from Jenkins Township, Hughestown, Plains Township, Moosic, Avoca, and Duryea.

?So far it?s going pretty well. Our EMS and firefighters did an excellent job,? said Conner late in the drill. ?Our communications also did very well.?

He said evaluators from the FAA were on site to grade the airport on how well the response went and how the team can improve. Results will not be available until later next week, Conner said.

?This was a very well-orchestrated drill,? said Trene Goosley of the Transportation Security Administration. Goosley, an aviation inspector who is stationed at the Lehigh Valley International Airport, makes sure the response time is acceptable. ?The initial response was rather quick.?

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