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Broken Wing Exercise 2017

On Wednesday, 21st June 2017, an event called Broken Wing 2017, an exercise which enabled airport firefighters, military and civil plane crash investigators, the police, and representatives of the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief to show their skills and cooperation in the rescue and investigation of a plane crash, was held at Ljubljana Airport. The exercise was divided into two parts; the first part took place at the training field of Ljubljana Airport, while the second part, which lasted for two additional days, was carried out on Pokljuka.

The exercise was organized by the Military Aircraft Accident/Incident Investigation Board and the National Forensic Laboratory of the Ministry of the Interior, in cooperation with Fraport Slovenija. The plane crash scenario, a collision between a military aircraft with two crew members and a civil aircraft with 50 passengers and four crew members, offered a realistic crisis situation. In order to make the whole exercise even more challenging, the planners of the exercise decided that the cargo of one of the aircraft included hazardous goods and that it belonged to a foreign country which was a member of NATO. The firefighters, who needed no more than three minutes to reach the crash site, offered us an insight into the procedures of combating the fire and securing the location of the accident, while at the same time protecting possible evidence. The firefighters identified hazardous objects, and searched for possible victims and identified them, which is a demanding task. In our case there were eleven casualties, including the pilot of the military aircraft. Since the military aircraft belonged to a foreign nation, in a real case scenario it would be necessary to include military investigators and an investigator from the foreign country, in addition to the civil investigators.

At Ljubljana Airport there are currently 57 active firefighters, which is, according to the ICAO standards, a sufficient number. They can deal with aircraft up to and including the 9th category. According to Thomas Uihlein, Chief Administrative Officer of Fraport Slovenija and Director of Fraport Aviation Academy, firefighters have a really tough job; they must deal with difficulties concerning special airport infrastructure and with specific aviation crisis situations; for example, they need to know how to approach the damaged plane, how to rescue passengers, and how to remove damaged aircraft from the runway. Karl Christian Hahn, Senior Manager Airport Fire Safety in Fraport AG, highlighted the importance of cooperation and a quick response: “Fast and reliable communication is always crucial to success.’’

Since basic firefighter training does not normally equip firefighters with specific knowledge in the field of aviation, such as, for example, military aircraft, Fraport AG decided to build a special Training Centre in Ljubljana, which offers firefighters from all over the world special courses in the field of crisis management, suitable for all those who want to upgrade their basic knowledge. Fraport Aviation Academy offers its participants different courses, which have been very carefully designed in collaboration with other organizations and authorities. Branko Dervodel, Deputy General Manager of the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, highlighted that all the programmes consist of elements that can be points of interest for airport firefighters, such as hot fire training, which has its origin in Sweden.

In addition, Fraport Aviation Academy collaborates with the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, a member of the University of Maribor, which helped in the preparation of the programmes. According to Iztok Podbregar, Dean of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, in future the faculty will implement part of the study, which will also be available to foreign participants: ‘’All programmes will be implemented in English and Slovene, and therefore are appropriate for participants from all global airports and aerodromes. Those who decide to participate in the Fraport Aviation Academy training will be offered further knowledge and competencies in the field of crisis management.’’

Plans fot the future

Fraport Aviation Academy currently offers 14 different rescue and firefighting courses; however, this number will be even higher in the future. The plan is to expand the training into different areas, not only aviation, and to collaborate with different organizations. Exercises such as the one that was just carried out demonstrate how important it is to get the right transition of theory into practice and the right collaboration between different organizations when ensuring safety and security within the airport area. With respect to this, the Fraport Aviation Academy has decided to purchase a helicopter mock-up, which will enable the implementation of further exercises required by the market. 

Fraport Aviation Academy stands on firm ground and has a bright future ahead. According to Thomas Uihlein, who presented the Academy together with his team at Intersec Dubai 2017, the biggest safety and security fair, the project also aroused interest in the Middle East. “I think we are heading in the right direction, on a good track, and we will be able to do much more for the safety and security of passengers and all the people who have to deal with all of this.’’