ACTION TIME: Emergency services during an emergency response exercise at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport yesterday.
ACTION TIME: Emergency services during an emergency response exercise at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport yesterday.

Emergency services swarm Ballina Airport for exercise

THE moment a flare sent orange smoke across the Ballina airport runway yesterday emergency services sprang into action.

Police, paramedics, NSW Fire and Rescue tankers and SES vehicles all rolled on to the tarmac to respond to a simulated plane crash.

Ballina Byron Gateway Airport manager Neil Weatherson said the emergency exercise, dubbed "Skidding", was a multi-agency exercise, designed to practice response and coordination procedures in the event of a crisis at the airport.

"As part of the airport's obligation under its operating licence issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Ballina Aerodrome Emergency Plan will be put to the test," he said.

The exercise used a school bus to simulate the crashed plane.

About 50 students from Wollongbar TAFE's Tourism and Aviation course and Ballina Visitor Information Airport Ambassadors role-played as passengers with a variety of injuries.

From death and broken limbs, to shock and breathing difficulties, the response of emergency services was put to the test.

SES volunteers and Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters ferried the injured on stretchers to the triage point, where they were assessed by paramedics, who prioritised the level of care each passenger needed.

Mr Weatherson said the airport's new $12.5 million Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (ARFF) facility had been operational for six months.

"This is the first time since the ARFF opened six months ago that it has been put to the test operationally," Mr Weatherson said.

"We are very happy having them at the airport all the time as it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders in terms of response.

"Having 17 new staff at the airport ARFF was a fantastic employment opportunity for the community."

Mr Weatherson said the Ballina Aerodrome Emergency Plan had to be tested by a full field exercise every two years.

"The exercise was planned for during daylight hours when passenger services were least busy," he said.

Cathy Adams


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