Airport Operations students took training into their own hands on Thursday, April 21, by designing and executing a disaster drill at the Auburn University Regional Airport.
The disaster situation included two planes about to collide on the same runway after a communication lapse, when one aircraft braked too fast and started to tailspin. The aircraft crashed on the side of a runway and caught fire. To simulate the situation, an old shell of a helicopter was set on fire under strict safety guidelines and supervision from the Fort Benning Fire Department.
As if it were a real emergency, students enacted a plan they’ve been working on all semester in conjunction with the community’s emergency services. Aviation management senior Kate Andreone said the success of the disaster drill hinged on teamwork.
“What I learned from the simulation is that everyone truly has to work together,” Andreone said. “Everyone had their own role to play, so this simulation was designed as a learning opportunity for not just the students, but really the whole community. And for our class, it’s a great thing to learn now and be ready to go into the real world prepared for this kind of situation.”
The drill was conducted in partnership with the Auburn Regional Airport staff, Opelika and Auburn Fire Departments, Lee County Emergency Management Agency and Emergency Medical Services to exercise real emergency protocols.
Students in the Airport Operations course each had a role to play, from serving as safety officers to reporting the disaster over the radio.
Aviation management senior and commercial pilot Tanner Dominick was one of the information officers who made the disaster call and helped coordinate the flow of information during the drill. He said the drill ran “like clockwork.”
“Once we connected with our community leaders, we were able to develop a game plan so that when we came here today, we were more than prepared for the actual drill,” Dominick said. “This has definitely diversified my view. I primarily focus on flying aircraft, but now that I’ve seen the planning and execution of a disaster drill, I feel like I have a deeper understanding of the aviation industry.”
Kim Wade, an aviation instructor and former director of operations at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, teaches Airport Operations at Auburn. She said the class will apply what they learned in the disaster drill across career paths.
“No one ever wants to have an emergency at their airport, but it’s a lot more comfortable when you’ve practiced and know what your responsibilities are,” Wade said. “Throughout the semester, these students have done an excellent job and it has shown in their ability to get things done today. When they leave Auburn and go out into the working world, they’ll take the leadership skills they gained by planning this and make Auburn very proud.”