Airport Emergency Plan for a Hijacked Plane
Aircraft hijacking has for long been an outstanding problem that continues to preoccupy airlines and the flying public onboard. At a minimum, hijacking causes inconveniences for the aircraft’s passengers, the flight crew, the airline company, and people waiting at the airport for the plane to land. At worst, it causes significant losses of life and property aboard the aircraft and even on the ground. With the current increase in aircrafts hijacking cases over the past days, there has emerged a reason for each and every airport manager to have a ready-to-go Airport Emergency Plan (AEP). However, there is no way an emergency plan can be tested unless there is a respective situation. The incident range can extend from just a mere malicious hijack to cases of national security. The outsmarted way to test a plan is to engineer all those entities that need to be involved and have a comprehensive walk-through, i.e. a tabletop exercise putting the Airport Emergency ready. The Emergency Plan is written to determine who is in charge of what during the occurrence of a particular emergency. Moreover, it is intended to reduce the reaction time for a response to an emergency, ensure it is the proper equipment that responds and identifies the situation, as well as examine and reduce the likelihood of an emergency case. For an effective emergency plan to be written, a walk-through appraisal must be conducted.
For a hijack airport emergency plan, the following attendees should be involved to avert the situation.
- Airport manager
- Airport traffic control chief
- State police authority
- Medical network authority
- Ambulance representative
- Life flight helicopter individual
- Air operations coordinator
- Ground operations coordinator
- Disaster Relief Agencies
The Emergency Plan will also accompany the already existing airport emergency plan.
Who’s In Charge?
Once the emergency plan is executed, control of the airport has to be given to the airport manager and the control tower facility that is in operation. The airport emergency plan is executed thereafter and every employee will assume his/her role. Roles of each attendant in the plan are stipulated below.
The airport manager: He/she carries the heaviest role in such a disaster aversion and all blames lay majorly on him/her if the emergency plan is to fail since he/she is the one who designs it. He/she must work in close coordination with numerous people, including pilot, airline management, air traffic controllers, and security personnel linemen. The airport manager will coordinate actions with all people in the disaster aversion chain to make the airport safe and efficient, following rules and regulations. These will allow the plane to land safely. They sometimes lobby to make necessary changes and will work with legislative personnel to promote aversion.
Airport traffic control chief: this is the person in charge of coming up with plans to control the traffic to ensure the landing plane does not get stuck in the airport traffic. Before an emergency situation arises, the chief is supposed to develop a strategy that will achieve this goal. Besides, the chief is obliged to establish a support team responsible for assisting in implementing the strategy. The airport traffic control chief is to segregate duties to juniors and monitor their actions during a plane hijack situation (Elias, 2010).
State police authority: the airport manager must cooperate with both local police and the state police authority. The police service will provide the necessary mechanism to deal with such a scenario. Any country has the air force department to deal with airline crimes. Plane hijacking is one of such crimes and they will be of the best preventive assistance.
Medical network authority: doctors on board are supposed to provide correct medications in an efficient manner. Any abrupt change in the flight path is associated with pressure complications. Passengers will also need counseling to avoid cases of panic and traumatization. The airport manager coordinates actions with medics and will frequently give reports about any case of casualties (Kenville et al., 2009).
Ambulance representative: these people are set at the airport to wait for severe cases resulting from passengers panicking that might lead to loss of conscience. People waiting at the airport will feel the same pressure and might experience complications that require medical assistance.
Life flight helicopter individual: this is a helicopter pilot who is supposed to stay on suspense. He is responsible for saving lives of people on board and will be called on duty to respond once control of the hijacked plane is taken by the hijacking crew. He or she will coordinate actions with airport traffic control chief to fulfill duties.
Air operations coordinator: this person is responsible for coordinating actions with a pilot on board. He/she will direct the pilot and necessitate correct facilities to automate flow of information between the control tower and the hijacked plane.
Ground operations coordinator: this person is responsible for overall coordination of activities at the airport. He/she ensures proper landing and clears all routes required. He/she will make sure that no other flight is inconvenienced with the incoming trouble.
Disaster Relief Agencies: these are organizations responsible for assisting the airport management in aversion of a planned hijack. The airport manager will cooperate with them to ensure they respond in time.
The following facilities are to be used in aversion of a planned hijacking in progress.
• Emergency notification system is a well-established high-tech system for informing the airport network of an actual or impending incident of hijacking that requires them to take some protective action. Emergency Text Alert is an automated text notification system that sends emergency text messages, while Emergency Voice Alert is a telephone voice messaging system. Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a system that includes equipment at several local radio stations and emergency alerts are broadcast over local media outlets.
• Control tower: These are sections of the airport that have the responsibility of coordinating activities between the plane and the airport traffic control officer. Operators at the tower will be ready to activate appropriate mechanisms when necessary.
Coordination of Activities during Occurrence of Plane Hijacking
There should be proper communication between components of the hijacked plane and the airport information system. The flow of information should occur from a correct chain person to the next. The information flow should flow from the airport manager. He/she is the oversight commander of the emergency plan. The manager will be liable in case of a failure and all blame will fall on him/her. In response to information that a plane has been hijacked, proper and effective links have to be put in place. The following are adjustments to be implemented into the normal functioning of the airport (Grothaus, 2009).
1. Airport manager: During the disaster, the manager will need to:
• Organize and mobilize all components of the airport,
• Receive information from the control tower and act on it,
• Give a speech to the media at the appropriate time and when the situation has calmed down.
• Make a final decision on the correct landing path and decide about the parking area for the incoming plane.
2. Air operations coordinator is entitled to and will perform the following roles during the situation:
Provide air operations manager with frequent reports,
Coordinate actions with responding state agencies to provide and facilitate aviation resources to assist in emergency response and recovery operations,
Provide and recommend maintenance facilities and personnel for logistical support to a pilot on the plane during disaster response operations,
Help in the coordination of notification, disposition, and arrival of aviation assets,
Coordinate with public and private agencies/organizations in determining availability of specialized aviation assets,
Provide qualified staff to assist in the management of air operations,
Help in establishment of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) as required or if appropriate.
3. Airport traffic control chief is supposed to do as follows:
• Provide liaison to aviation resource agencies,
• Maintain and provide an up-to-date list of aviation resources and track status of resources during the hijack,
• Determine necessary staffing and activate necessary components,
• Assist in noting about the need for temporary flight restrictions,
• Upon a request of the manager, establish restricted airspace management operation,
• Identify & establish forward staging area and logistical support necessary for these operations,
• Brief the manager on the status of air operations, which includes missions at hand, available aircraft, type, location, and first priorities for aviation support. He/she can brief the media under directive from the manager,
• Advise traffic personnel on aircraft capabilities, give recommendations for appropriate missions by aircraft, as well as restrictions and costs associated with the use of private-sector aircraft.
4. Ground operations coordinator is supposed to do the following:
• Outline a point of contact for the air operations manager,
• Give an aircraft to support disaster air operations,
• Provide individuals and equipment to ensure functioning of aviation communications and communication center.
5. State police authority: according the emergency plan for the hijack, they will and are supposed to (Taillon, 2002):
• Provide a point of contact to the air operations manager,
• Give an aircraft to support disaster air operations, aerial damage assessment, communications support, as well as tracking and reporting of surface traffic,
• Provide the personnel to assist in the coordination of air operations, facilities, and equipment,
• Provide air traffic personnel to track the targeted aircraft,
• Give communication links between the aircraft and the personnel tracking the plane,
• Provide a map that tracks all aircrafts employed during disaster operations,
• Direct the plane to an alternative route if it fails to go to a right parking area,
• Assist in conducting investigation of causes of the hijack.
6. Medical network authority will be responsible for and perform the following roles:
• Initiate necessary medical operations for passengers on board,
• Provide counseling and necessary advice to victimized passengers.
7. Ambulance representatives will be there to provide emergency medical services at the airport in case of emergency conditions, including
• Stabilization, first aid, medical care,
• Transportation of causalities,
• Coordination of planning, response, and recovery efforts with hospitals.
8. Life flight helicopter individual is the person responsible for:
• Making an emergency flight once called upon,
• Providing parachutes to passengers when necessary.
9. Disaster Relief Agencies do the following:
• Coordinate actions with local airport authority and give emergency advances needed,
• Give consideration on a role the airport may have in support of disaster response plans,
• Assist the airport authority in conducting investigation on possible grounds of the hijacking.
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Upon establishment of the plan above, the manager is supposed to retrieve information from the system using the emergency notification system. This is information he/she is going to use to communicate with the media. Meetings are necessary for regular updates for the media and briefing to the general public. Families of passengers require regular information concerning their safety. All information flow is going to be distributed to the public via commands given by the airport manager. The flow chart provided at the end will give a chain of actions as to how the emergency plan shall be implemented. Final information distributed to the public has to be short and clear to avoid exaggerations from the media, e.g. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 received extensive media coverage with many media theories coming into existence.
Previous cases of hijacking have led to media speculation beyond the reality at the ground. Good communication is important for all stakeholders involved. A good communications link should be established between the air operations manager, air traffic control (Tower), emergency medical services, and other components (Stambaugh, 2009).
Analysis of Rescue Plan and Post Execution
For any emergency plan, results are the most important aspect of the plan. Therefore, this section of the paper provides analysis of effectiveness of the emergency plan. Failures of the system are subject to analysis as well as its success. With the emergency plan in place, the likely results are as follows:
• Disqualification of the emergency plan,
• Approval of the plan,
• Suspension of the plan, appending any further corrections.
For a successful plan, the following indicators should be employed:
a. The plane has been successfully directed in line with the emergency plan,
b. Causalities have received proper medical care,
c. Communication with the media has not ruined reputation of the airline company,
d. All components of the emergency plan have been interacting well for achieving the best outcomes,
e. External interaction with the information system has not been misused by competitors,
f. Any damages have been compensated by the airline in the best time possible, e.g. loss of property during the rescue process,
g. A proper investigation mechanism has been initiated and analysis has been made.
However, there are some damages that are usually associated with a rescue plan concerning either aircraft and luggage or the runway, which might include:
I. Loss of passengers’ property,
II. Disruption of schedules of other flights because of impromptu landing of an unplanned plane,
III. Results from the investigation being improperly manipulated by the media,
IV. Worsening of the health situation of passengers, e.g. traumatized cases or some patients might suffer from cardiac arrests,
V. Plane information system might be altered because of external interference by the hijacking crew,
VI. Sometimes, hijackers might decide to literally destroy the plane once their mission fails.
A good airport emergency plan must come up with an investigation route and discuss results of the investigation. The airport authority in conjunction with the local police authority and the disaster relief agency will have to establish conclusive details as to why hijacking has been planned and who is responsible, while expected results should tell the following:
a. Who was behind the hijacking plot?
b. What was the motive of the hijack?
c. Weak points of the security system exploited by hijackers to conduct their plan
d. What is to be done in future to avoid such a scenario?
e. Are there internal leakages in the information system?
f. Possible extent of effects that could have occurred if the hijack plan had not been averted.
g. Financial significance of the hijack
h. Is there a possibility of another hijack attempt in future?
i. Possible effective measures to be put in place to avoid another hijack plan
j. Establishing whether the hijack has been internally or externally planned
k. If internal, determining who is responsible, why, and necessary disciplinary measures to be accorded.
l. The investigating committee should also file a report and present it to the airport authority in the due shortest time possible.
Finally, the airport management must come up with a proper back up plan to sufficiently ensure that such cases do not happen in future. There should also be a good recovery plan for execution of the emergency plan.