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Westport Airport emergency response exercise a great success

08 Apr 2024

Westport Airport carried out a planned full emergency response exercise on Saturday, 6 April. The weekend’s exercise was a full practical simulation, attended by approximately 60 people.

Airport and emergency services staff led the exercise, with No. 33 Squadron (Westport) Air Training Corps members and students from the Westport Deep Sea Fishing School taking part as actors, staging the scene.

The scenario was set as Saturday morning during rugby season with a scheduled charter flight from Auckland carrying 32 passengers and three crew due to arrive at Westport Airport.

Just before its final approach, smoke was reported inside the aircraft’s cabin, originating from the luggage compartment.

Despite the aircraft's attempt to land, it was forced to abort the landing due to the thick smoke engulfing the cabin and crashed near the West Tiphead, with fuselage breaking off into the Buller River. The ‘debris field’ extended over Tiphead Road within the airport boundary northeast of the runway.

The full emergency response was led by Westport Police, assisted by FENZ, St John, Westport Airport staff, Buller Surf Rescue, Buller Health, West Coast Emergency Management, Buller District Council and Buller Taxis.

Westport Airport Operations and Safety Manager Christian Mclay says: “The event went incredibly well in terms of the organisation and participation in the exercise. Participants brought a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, as well as their professional skills to the task.”

Firefighters were in action putting out burning wreckage on the airfield and the local police dealt with traumatised family members in the airport terminal. Buller Surf Rescue was busy retrieving passengers from the river.

St John were on hand providing medical assistance and had 13 casualties to deliver to Te Rau Kawakawa, where hospital staff were kept extremely busy dealing with the injured.

Westport Airport Chief Executive Krissy Trigg says: “A hot debrief was held after the exercise on Saturday, the next stage is to carry out a formal debrief at a later date, from which necessary action, such as modifications to the existing emergency response plan, will be taken. A big thank you to all agencies, staff and volunteers who attend the exercise, there was a great turnout, and it gave us a good run-through.”

As the holder of an aerodrome operator certificate issued under Civil Aviation Rule Part 139, Westport Airport is legally required to have an aerodrome emergency response plan in place and test this with full practical exercises and desktop exercises of this type in alternate years.
The last full exercise was held in 2021 and the last desktop exercise took place in 2022. Learnings from Saturday’s event will be used to improve Westport Airport’s overall emergency preparedness.


For further information please contact:
Group Manager Community Services
Krissy Trigg