Passengers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport might be greeted with a shocking sight Sunday morning: A plane crash, complete with fire trucks, paramedics, wounded survivors and dead bodies on the runway.
Fortunately, it will all be a simulation. The airport is holding its federally mandated safety drill and mock crash, required by the Federal Aviation Administration every three years.
Sunday’s drill will involve about 100 actors, done up in realistic makeup to simulate injuries ranging from minor to fatal. Some 200 first responders, from agencies including the Charlotte Fire Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Medic and airport operations will respond to the “crash” and treat the “victims.”
“The public and passengers may see additional emergency traffic around the airport that morning,” Charlotte Douglas officials said in a message Thursday. The drill lets first responders test communication systems and other critical disaster responses that are rarely used and ensures that the first time agencies work together isn’t during a real emergency.
The most recent disaster simulation, held in 2014, featured the scenario of a runway collision between an Airbus A319 passenger jet and a private plane that mistakenly taxied across its runway. A flaming fuselage simulator was set up to mimic the burning debris from the smaller plane, and actors – some with gruesome wounds, organs ripped out, cuts, bruises and blood spatters – stumbled along the runway or lay in pools of blood.
The last fatal crash at Charlotte Douglas occurred in 2003, when a US Airways Express flight with 19 passengers and two crew members stalled during takeoff. Everyone on board died when the plane slammed into a maintenance hangar. An investigation found the crash of Flight 5481 was caused by improperly performed maintenance and incorrect calculations of the plane’s weight and balance.
In January, an American Eagle jet had to perform an emergency landing after it struck a deer during takeoff at Charlotte Douglas, puncturing the CRJ-700’s fuel tanks. Firefighters scrambled and covered the jet in flame retardant foam when it landed.