GREEN, Ohio - More than 200 local emergency service providers practiced a worst-case scenario on Wednesday by simulating a mid-air collision between a passenger jet and a cargo plane at Akron-Canton Airport.
During the drill, local firefighters donned silver protective suits and used hoses to douse flames on a steel fuselage simulator.
"They feel like they're actually in a plane. The heat is real. The fire is real. And, they go in and actually have to put that fire out," said North Canton Fire Chief John Bacon.
The Federal Aviation Administration mandates many airports, including CAK, to practice full-scale airport disaster drills for emergency preparedness every three years.
Airport officials and local fire chiefs organized a fake news conference and explained that a passenger plane en route from Las Vegas, and carrying 124 people, collided with a cargo plane with two people on board.
The fake collision created five crash sites and hazardous materials concerns in various jurisdictions.
To make the drill appear real, Rick McQueen, president and CEO of Akron-Canton Airport, told reporters, "Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on board those aircraft."
Transportation Security Administration and FAA workers wore white protective suits and searched areas near the crash sites. They used red flags to mark areas where pieces of the plane or luggage could have been found.
Jackson Township Fire Chief Tracy Hogue said the firefighters still experienced butterflies and a surge of adrenaline even though it was only training.
"There are no border wars in this. All public safety agencies work together because not one entity could battle a crash of this size or an incident of this size. We're prepared when it happens and if it happens. Hopefully, it never does and we don't have to do this," Hogue said.