The scenario: an airliner crash in Sde-Dov AFB. The goal: saving lives. Who will the IAF cooperate with, what are the challenges it faced and what is the first priority in the scenario?

Noa Wollman

An ATR airliner carrying 50 passengers crashed into a military vehicle with two soldiers and another airliner carrying 30 passengers while landing in Sde-Dov AFB. Seconds later, civilian rescue forces and IAF helicopters from the “Desert Birds” Squadron were scrambled to the scene and began evacuating the dozens of severely wounded civilians from the scene. This scenario was rehearsed last week in order to prepare all of the rescue forces for cooperation.  “We simulated the worst-case scenario”, said Senior Sergeant Major Yuval Cohen, who is responsible for operational continuity in Sde-Dov AFB. “Two large aircraft crashing is a national tragedy”.

Training for Every Scenario

Photography: Israel Police Aerial Unit

In real time, a large number of units and rescue forces would rush to the scene in order to assist. In order to ideally prepare for such a scenario – said units were all called to the base to train together. “Sde-Dov combines civilian and military aviation, so it was very important to us to establish a strong foundation and train all of the elements that would participate if such a scenario would happen”, shared Maj. Yoav, the Commander of the Training Exercise. “When a tragedy such as this happens, the cooperation between us must be ideal, especially in light of the fact that we will be dealing with human lives”.

Training for Every Scenario

Photography: Israel Police Aerial Unit

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During the training exercise, the rescue forces faced a large scale challenge: they were required to operate simultaneously in four different arenas in order to save as many passengers as possible from the burning aircraft. “The first thing we had to deal with was the fires”, shared SST. MAJ. Oz, Commander of the fire-fighting station. “We all worked in order to save the people trapped in the aircraft and the vehicle”.

In order to create a high pressure situation and ideally simulate a real-time scenario, the exercise leaders added another layer: crowds that created noise and interrupted the activity. “In a real scenario there would be yelling and disorder, we would be receiving constant updates and a complex situation would arise and create multiple dilemmas. In order to successfully work together and make the correct decisions, it is important for us to know each other”, emphasized the fire-fighting station commander. “Now I will know how they work and how to work with them”.

Training for Every Scenario

Photography: Israel Police Aerial Unit

The exercise was held as part of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) commitment and demand of the IAF Commander to maintain a high level of readiness in all air ports. “This isn’t the first time we have held an exercise of this kind in cooperation with other security forces”, shared Maj. Yoav. “I feel like we learned new things about the discussion between us and about the mutual work this time as well. We do everything to save lives”.