How simulated aircraft fire tested emergency responders at Entebbe International Airport

Some of the "injured passengers" being flown to Entebbe and Kampala for treatment (PHOTO/Courtesy).

Some of the “injured passengers” being flown to Entebbe and Kampala for treatment (PHOTO/Courtesy).

ENTEBBE — Entebbe International Airport has conducted a successful full-scale emergency exercise that aimed at testing the ability of stakeholders to deal with catastrophic emergencies such as one  involving a passenger aircraft “veering off the runway and catching fire”.

Regular airport operations were not impacted by the two hour exercise on Friday, November 4, 2022.

The scenario for the full-scale emergency exercise involved simulation of a TIDA Airlines (pseudo name) flown by undefined crew number and carrying 250 passengers.

Over “30 passengers died during the incident”

The imaginary plane in the simulation had been cleared to land at Entebbe International Airport runway 12/30, but on touch down, the aircraft “veered off the runway and caught fire.

That was the part of the simulation that involved real-life flames on Friday mid morning.

Drill involved real flames, volunteers playing passengers

Firefighters from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority Fire Fighting and Rescue Services personnel battled an actual fire that was lit in a long-term parking lot as part of what planners described as a “full-scale exercise.”

Flames shot out from a mock airplane fuselage that had been trucked in on a flatbed for the simulation.

Firefighters responded promptly, Mr. Fred Bamwesigye, the Director General of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority said.

In addition to the live flames, local emergency crews also dealt with more than 250 people, including volunteers who played the role of passengers at the scene of an aircraft “veering off the runway and catching fire.”

Mr. Bamwesigye said the airport takes safety seriously.

In the simulation, 30 people lost their lives” and “40 of the survivors were critically injured”, while several others were transported for treatment, said Mr. Vianney Mpungu Luggya, the Manager Public Affairs at UCAA.

“Several ambulances and medical staff went to the scene and “rescued” the victims. The “critically injured” were rushed to hospitals in Entebbe and Kampala,” he told reporters after the exercise.

Personnel from various state and private agencies participated in the exercise, including the Aviation police, Counter Terrorism Police, the Red Cross, hospitals, Uganda Airlines, Port Health, UPDAF, MUNUSCO, representatives from the various airlines, ground handling agents, volunteers who acted as injured passengers and UCAA staff.

Next they will write up a report, hoping to identify “gaps” and areas where emergency response might be improved, said Bamwesigye.

“The exercise is a mandatory requirement for international Airports of countries that are contracting member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” he said.

Uganda last conducted a full-scale emergency exercise in 2019.

A partial emergency exercise was last held in December 2020.

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