It’s the first day of the Abbotsford Airshow, and a C-130 Hercules military transport plane has arrived at Cascade Aerospace from the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario.
A crowd is gathered to take in the annual show at the Abbotsford Airport, with several people situated in the prime viewing area known as “Chalet Row” and many cars in the infield.
The crowd’s attention is diverted to the emergency vehicles arriving on scene, including firetrucks from the airport and from Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS).
Smoke is coming from the aircraft, and one of the occupants who is unconscious is carried away.
Bystanders who get too close to the action are ushered back and are later told to evacuate the area, as there is the possibility of an explosion due to a fuel leak.
The firetrucks hose down the Hercules and, about an hour after the chaos begins, it’s all over.
A small fire aboard the plane has been contained, and one person has been taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. The three other occupants are fine.
Media at the scene is told that the cause of the fire is still under investigation and a press conference later that day will provide more information.
This was the scenario of a training exercise held Wednesday at the airport.
The routine safety exercise, which began at 11:30 a.m. and lasted for about an hour, was held to provide a realistic training opportunity for staff of the airport, the air show, Cascade Aerospace, AFRS and other agencies.
About 20 people played the roles of the bystanders and the Hercules crew, while others stood by to assess the responses of the agencies involved.
The airport is required by Transport Canada to hold a multi-agency training exercise every four years.
Parm Sidhu, the airport’s director of operations, said the simulation went well and a debriefing was held afterwards among the players.
“Like every other exercise, there are always learning outcomes … Communication is the key and getting the information out to the right people (during an emergency) is the key,” he said.
While participants were waiting for the training exercise to begin, emergency crews were tested in a real situation at the airport.
Construction crews hits a gas line in front of the terminal at about 9:30 a.m., resulting in the evacuation of between 80 and 100 people.
The entrance to the airport was temporarily blocked off, and an inbound WestJet flight was held on the tarmac for about 20 minutes.
The airport was reopened after about 45 minutes, and the training exercise began about an hour later than planned.
Sidhu said the gas leak underscored the reason for the simulated emergency.
“It tested our procedures,” he said. “You can never practise enough.”
– with files from Tyler Olsen