HomeNewsArticle Display

166th Airlift Wing CES Firefighters Participate in Operation Blue Skywalker

Firefighters of the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron huddle prior to the kick-off of Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. The operation, a simulated airplane crash, was a full-scale drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration to be held every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

Firefighters of the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron huddle prior to the kick-off of Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. The operation, a simulated airplane crash, was a full-scale drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration to be held every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Airlift Wing Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters carry a patient to a waiting ambulance during Operation Blue Skywalker at Delaware Air National Guard Base, Delaware, April 13, 2019. The firefighters were responding to the victims of a simulated airplane crash during a full-scale drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Airlift Wing Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters carry a patient to a waiting ambulance during Operation Blue Skywalker at Delaware Air National Guard Base, Delaware, April 13, 2019. The firefighters were responding to the victims of a simulated airplane crash during a full-scale drill required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

First response vehicles respond during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. The 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters have an agreement with local authorities to assist in responding any time they are needed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

First response vehicles respond during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. The 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters have an agreement with local authorities to assist in responding any time they are needed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

Wilmington manor Firefighters arrive on scene to assist the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Wilmington Manor is one of the local authorities holding a coordinated response agreement with the 166th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

Wilmington manor Firefighters arrive on scene to assist the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron Firefighters during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Wilmington Manor is one of the local authorities holding a coordinated response agreement with the 166th Airlift Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

TSgt Cody Lytle directs firefighters from the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Lytle took up position atop engine number 4 to get a birds-eye view of the scene. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

TSgt Cody Lytle directs firefighters from the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Lytle took up position atop engine number 4 to get a birds-eye view of the scene. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

First responders from the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters apply a compression bandage to a crash victim during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. 166th CES firefighters were first on scene at the mock disaster site. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

First responders from the 166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters apply a compression bandage to a crash victim during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. 166th CES firefighters were first on scene at the mock disaster site. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters ease a victim onto a rescue stretcher during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Crash victims were subsequently take to St. Francis medial Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters ease a victim onto a rescue stretcher during Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. Crash victims were subsequently take to St. Francis medial Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters pose for a group photo with Wilmington Manor Fire Company Director Bernie Nutter II prior to the start of Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. 166th CES firefighters worked in coordination with the Wilmington Manor Fire Company. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

166th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters pose for a group photo with Wilmington Manor Fire Company Director Bernie Nutter II prior to the start of Operation Blue Skywalker, April 10, 2019 at Delaware National Guard Base, Del. 166th CES firefighters worked in coordination with the Wilmington Manor Fire Company. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Mitch Topal)

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.