PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION, MD – To maintain preparedness for worst-case scenarios, the NAS Patuxent River Emergency Services conducted an integrated drill focused on aircraft mishap response at Webster Outlying Field on May 16. The exercise aimed to test the abilities of various departments to respond effectively to a simulated MV-22 aircraft accident resulting from a bird strike.
The drill scenario involved an in-air emergency that transitioned into a ground-based situation. According to NAS Patuxent River Installation Training Officer Matt Nalley, the simulated scenario unfolded as follows: “The MV-22 would be in the pattern for approach and will experience a bird strike resulting in damage to the windshield and air-intake of both engines. The aircraft then continues the pattern for landing, while calling ‘mayday, mayday,’ before making a hard landing resulting in a post-crash fire and injuries among the crew.”
To ensure a realistic training experience, Naval District Washington Firefighters utilized the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Trainer (MAFT). This unique training device replicates an aircraft and can generate smoke and fire throughout its structure. The MAFT allows firefighters to practice and refine their skills in combating aircraft fires.
District Fire Chief Clifford Montgomery III emphasized the value of the MAFT, stating, “Having the ability to train as we fight means that we can better respond should such a fire occur. And a better response means a better chance of saving lives.” Fighting aircraft fires poses unique challenges due to aircraft’s high temperatures and fuel volatility.
The drill involved the collaboration of multiple emergency services, with the participation of the Ridge Volunteer Fire Department and the Maryland State Police helicopter crew from Trooper 7. The integration of these agencies enabled them to simulate a real-world response to an aircraft mishap and fostered a more robust understanding of how to cooperate effectively during emergencies.
Chief Montgomery highlighted the importance of inter-agency collaboration: “The inter-agency work we do with our community partners allows us to save lives throughout Southern Maryland. Just like our NDW firefighters and Search and Rescue crews help outside the fenceline, so do local firefighters and police should we have an emergency on base. This drill honed their skills and ours and helped us better understand how to work together in a real emergency.”
The aircraft mishap drill encompassed various aspects, including aircraft firefighting, rescue operations, and emergency medical treatment for injured personnel. Observing the exercise, Officer Nalley admired the participants’ dedication, stating, “When you watch the team during a training scenario like this, it’s clear they take it very seriously. These teams really embody the spirit of ‘amateurs train until they get it right, professionals train until they can’t get it wrong,’ and we saw a bunch of professionals today.”
By conducting drills of this nature, NAS Patuxent River Emergency Services ensure that its personnel are equipped with the necessary skills to respond effectively in the event of an actual aircraft mishap. The rigorous training and collaboration with external agencies enhance the overall readiness of the base and contribute to the safety and well-being of both military personnel and the local community.