Some 750 people were involved in the joint management of a major crisis by the actors of Genève Aéroport's emergency plan and their colleagues from the OSIRIS cantonal device.
Established to test at full scale the growing strength of the components of the joint emergency plan of Genève Aéroport (PUR-GA) and the canton's organization and action system in exceptional situations (OSIRIS), the "Buteo 2015" exercise started on Tuesday 26 May at midnight and ended at 08:00 the next morning.
This mock disaster staged the crash of a BirdFly airline plane. The aircraft, an Airbus A330 operating between Doha and Geneva, was preparing to land on runway 23 (direction Lausanne-Geneva) when the pilot reported to air traffic controllers that he was having difficulties. Before he could finish his message, the plane, which was carrying 203 passengers and 13 crew members, crashed short of the approach edge of the runway after hitting a high voltage power line, and was breaking up rapidly and on fire.
Alerted immediately, the Airport Security Service (SSA) aviation firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes and quickly brought the fire under control, despite intervention conditions made difficult by the night, the uneven terrain, the presence of bodies on the ground, and the severed high-tension power line.
Soon joined by their colleagues from the cantonal medical brigade, the airport ambulance crews began a search operation. The injured were transported to a forward medical post (FMP or "hospital tents" to enable the triage and wrapping of the injured) before being evacuated to nearby hospitals by ambulance or helicopter.
At the same time, unharmed passengers were assembled at a place where they could be looked after by teams of psychologists.
The many dead were gathered in a makeshift morgue in an annex of the freight terminal.
Once on the site, the judicial police officers searched for items that would permit the identification of victims.
Landside, the actors playing the role of families waiting for passengers in the terminal were assembled in a reception area managed by the International Security Police (ISP), where they could benefit from medical, psychological and spiritual attention.
In another wing of the airport, volunteers from various companies active on the airport site activated the Centre for Company Research and Information (CRIC) line to gather information on the victims.
Representatives of many entities, like Gaznat, Swissgrid (in relation with GIS and SBB), the water police and Skyguide were involved in action that mobilized a total of some 750 people.
The extras, among them many actors, took on disguises and played various physical disorders and emotional outbreaks, often in difficult conditions of cold and humidity.
"Real-fake" journalists, mostly students at the Geneva School of Journalism, for their part, came up against the police cordon preventing access to the perimeter and conducted their investigations by questioning the press services of the airport, the Geneva cantonal police and Skyguide.
Many referees, highly competent in their respective fields, followed the decisions of the various Staff centres and will be writing in the coming weeks detailed reports enabling the necessary feedback (RETEX) to further improve emergency procedures.
At this stage, the Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA), in an initial analysis, felt that the exercise was a success, the bodies exercised having shown their ability to satisfy legal and regulatory requirements.
These "life-size" exercises are required of airport managers by their supervisory authority and are held every three years.