DELAWARE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. --
Station 33 firefighters were the lead unit that participated in Operation Blue Skywalker, here, April 10, 2019. Other agencies participating in the drill included the Federal Aviation Administration, Delaware Emergency Management Agency, New Castle County Emergency Medical Services, Saint Francis Hospital, Wilmington Manor and Christiana Fire Companies.
The operation, a simulated airplane crash, was a full-scale drill required by the FAA to be held every three years. The 166th CES firefighters were first on scene shortly after 09:00, followed closely by the other county and local first responders.
Volunteers from Dover Air Force Base were made-up to look like victims with bloody head wounds, broken bones, lacerations, and burns. An old Bombardier business jet (sans engines) was employed as the crash aircraft. The victims were positioned inside and around the plane, many playing dead or writhing in pain to add realism. An ashen sky and a wet tarmac added drama to the scene, which bustled with remarkably well-coordinated activity.
As hoses were deployed and “fires” were extinguished, paramedics attended to the victims, performing triage and removing those trapped inside the aircraft. After the victims were stabilized and provided basic life support, they were loaded on gurneys and whisked away to a fleet of idling ambulances. With lights flashing and sirens screaming, the emergency vehicles then sped to the Saint Francis Hospital emergency room.
“As far as coordinating with outside agencies, we’ve had monthly meetings for about 7 months,” said MSgt James Knightly, 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Chief. “If we can save the aircraft, we will, but our number one priority is saving people. For being such a young department, I think our guys did an outstanding job.”
Knightly also explained that at this point, the unit is up to about 250 calls for the year, which is extraordinary. “When I first started, we were lucky to be at 20 calls,” he explained.