AZ Air Guard tests emergency response with Phoenix Sky Harbor

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Tinashe Machona, 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Arizona Air National Guard members helped Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport complete its 2017 Triennial Exercise here Oct. 26, to practice emergency response and to satisfy Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

Every three years, the federal government requires airports like Sky Harbor to conduct a full-scale emergency exercise. In addition to meeting the federal requirement, the Triennial Exercise allows the Phoenix Aviation Department, Phoenix Fire, Phoenix Police, several airlines, and other agencies to test unified command procedures and deliver crucial hands-on training.

First responders function using a unified command system, with the ranking fire chief acting as the overall incident commander.


“This is a hands-on preparedness exercise that gives airport personnel, as well as the Air National Guard and other first responders, an opportunity to test their capabilities in the event of an airport emergency,” said Heather Lissner, a Public Information Manager for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department.  She added, that the scenario in the exercise was designed to assess response-times for agencies’ to transport passengers from an aircraft accident to hospitals.

One hundred volunteers participated in the exercise to simulate crash victims.

The exercise scenario involved the burst of a landing gear tire which caused pieces of rubber to enter an engine and cause a fire. Upon entering the infield, the fictitious aircraft wing hit the ground violently enough to rupture it in two. The front part of the aircraft traversed on to the onto the Air Guard’s ramp.

The exercise activated the Airport’s Emergency Operations Center as well as test the execution of the Airport’s Post Disaster Family Assistance Plan.


“I think the exercise served its purpose well. It was a great opportunity for responders to test their emergency response and get experience working together,” said Lissner. She added, that it is very important that the 161st Air Refueling Wing, airport tenants, participates because they are a key stakeholder at Sky Harbor.

After the simulated incident on the flight line, passengers were transported by bus to the wing’s dinning facility, or passenger gathering area, for further processing.

Lt. Col. Trey Shewbert, the wing’s Inspector General said the exercise enhances the installation’s interoperability with the various agencies. “It’s advantageous for the wing to participate in this exercise. It provides us with a learning experience, which assists in determining what areas we are effective in and where we can improve,” said Shewbert. He said multiple municipalities such as Tempe, Sun City, Goodyear and Flagstaff opted to participate as well.


“The exercise was executed very well. The agencies exhibited fantastic teamwork,” said Shewbert. If the scenario became a reality, all members of the base will become first responders to assist our civilian partners. We are always ready, always there.”