Exercise Northern Approach to test Airport Preparedness

A plane crash into the Barron River will play out in a mock emergency field exercise at Cairns Airport tomorrow. The exercise is the first time Cairns Airport will conduct a simulated crash event involving an international flight crashing in the Barron River.

Exercise Northern Approach will take place in restricted terrain, in an exercise designed to test preparedness and communications between agencies in the event of an accident.

The multi-agency drill will involve more than 100 personnel and volunteers from across Cairns airport and the community including the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Ambulance Service, Aviation Rescue Fire and Fighting Service, Queensland Police, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services , Queensland Health, State Emergency Services, the Department of Environment, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Airservices Australia, Australian Border Force, Life flight, Cairns Regional Council, the Australian Red Cross and James Cook University.

Central Queensland University’s Paramedicine students will also take part in the exercise and do the Moulage for the exercise. Central Queensland University Nursing students will also be involved.

Exercise Northern Approach will transform parts of Cairns Airport into a ‘crash site’ and test first responders’ actions to an emergency crash on airport.

Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker said the exercise followed months of planning and was an important part of the Airport’s ability to test its plans and decision making on airport in a practical way.

“The exercise allows us to run through our procedures and implement our training in a realistic environment testing our Airport Emergency Plan and first-responder actions as well as communications between the agencies.

“We can only conduct an exercise like this with the help and assistance of all the agencies involved and its their support that enables us to refine our crisis management on airport and we’re incredibly thankful to all those involved.”

The Dawul Wuru Indigenous Rangers will also be part of Exercise Northern Approach providing advice and assisting in the assessment of environmental impacts on the day.

The exercise that is held bi-annually was scheduled to take place last year but was postponed due to COVID and is part of Cairns Airport’s continued commitment to aviation safety and CASA requirements.

In addition to the live exercise, a table-top version to test decision-making skills, readiness and response to an emergency exercise is run on alternate years.