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Broken Wing Exercise 2018

On Wednesday, 20th June 2018, a traditional emergency response exercise called Broken Wing 2018 took place at the military Air Base of Airport Ljubljana. Broken Wing 2018 was organized by the Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Board of the Ministry of Defence, in cooperation with the General Police Directorate and Fraport Slovenija. The focus of this year’s exercise, which involved around 70 individuals, was on the detection and identification of hazardous materials. More than 130 people attended the exercise, including the Minister of Defence, Andreja Katič, and special guests from aircraft investigation authorities in Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany.On Wednesday, 20th June 2018, a traditional emergency response exercise called Broken Wing 2018 took place at the military Air Base of Airport Ljubljana. Broken Wing 2018 was organized by the Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Board of the Ministry of Defence, in cooperation with the General Police Directorate and Fraport Slovenija. The focus of this year’s exercise, which involved around 70 individuals, was on the detection and identification of hazardous materials. More than 130 people attended the exercise, including the Minister of Defence, Andreja Katič, and special guests from aircraft investigation authorities in Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany.

The scenario involved a cargo aircraft, registered in the Middle East, which was flying across Slovenia when, due to technical issues, it attempted an emergency landing at Ljubljana Airport. The landing was unsuccessful and the aircraft crashed into the military part of the airport, where two other aircraft, a Bell 412 helicopter and a Pilatus PC 9 aeroplane, were parked. The aircraft incident resulted in six casualties, and a vessel containing a substance with a suspicious smell was found at the crash scene. According to the information available, the aircraft had been transporting unidentified dangerous chemical or biological substances.

The first to arrive at the scene were the airport firefighters, who demonstrated the process of extinguishing the fire. Milan Dubrovac, ARFF Commander of Fraport Slovenija, said that in the event of triggering the highest alarm rate they would activate the Airport Emergency Plan which, in addition to other authorities, alerts firefighters from the surrounding areas. In the event of an aircraft accident with a lot of casualties, firefighters would also activate the rescue process directly after extinguishing the fire.

After the successful firefighting operation, the investigators offered the visitors an insight into the procedures for securing the location of the crash site and checking whether it is safe to make an approach. They took aerial photographs, rescued possible survivors, examined the accident area and identified possible explosives with the help of special service dogs. Peter Levstek, MSc, Senior Military Specialist, Class XIV, and Head of the Veterinary Unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces, said that the specially trained dogs, who have more than five years work experience, are able to search a large crash site in a very short time. They can detect the presence of explosives and by doing so protect everybody entering the accident area.

The exercise continued with a demonstration of the process of the identification and protection of evidence, forensic activities, taking samples of the unknown dangerous substances, and their identification by rapid methods in the mobile laboratory of the Medical Unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces, followed by the appropriate transportation of the samples for further analysis. At the end of the exercise Dr. Matej Trapečar from the National Forensic Laboratory presented the activities of the Body Identification Unit.

Colonel Mihael Klavžar, Chief Investigator of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, said that the focus of this year’s exercise, unlike previous ones, was on the identification of dangerous substances, such as explosives and chemical and biological materials. He added: “We have activated various units within the Slovenian Armed Forces, Civil Protection and the Police, and also presented the special helicopter simulator, which enables firefighters to learn about the specifics of extinguishing fires on helicopters. These exercises contribute to the improvement in the responsiveness and professionalism of all those presented with such events. Together with Fraport Slovenija we are trying to inform fire brigades about the help that they can offer in case of such accidents.”
 
 
The exercise was also attended by Professor Jože Balažic, the Chief of the Body Identification Unit of the Institute of Forensic Medicine and a current member of the Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation Board of the Ministry of Defence, who stated: “In the event of an accident, we all gather within 30 minutes and go to the crash site. When talking about an aircraft accident, bodies are usually extremely injured and deformed, sometimes even into separate pieces. Identification usually takes us a lot of time. The number of casualties may be very low but we will still have an enormous amount of work; on the other hand, identification may be very quick even in the event of large numbers of casualties. These exercises are very welcome, since they enable us to detect our own errors which we can make during the course of our work. We must be aware that no two accidents are exactly the same, which often means lot of improvisation. This is exactly what makes these exercises interesting. Such procedures are very difficult and present a great responsibility. Our main priority is to return loved ones to their relatives.”