Airport Emergency Procedures

Chapter – 6.3

Airport Emergency Procedures



Any type of emergency may crop up at airport. A sudden emergency in an airport can hamper normal airport operations. Therefore, every airport must be prepared to cope with an emergency .Airport emergency plans are established so that effects of an unpredictable emergency are minimized .These plans lay down – the procedures involved for coordinating with different airport service agencies whơ take action, in the wake of an emergency

Airport Emergency Procedures

Airport emergency Planning is the process of preparing an aerodrome to cope with an emergency occurring at the aerodrome or in its vicinity.

Objective of Airport Emergency Planning

Minimize the effects of an emergency, particularly in respect of saving lives and maintaining aircraft operations

ICAO Annex 14 Chapter 9, Section 9.1, contains the Standards and Recommended Practices covering emergency planning and the testing ofplans through periodic exercises.

The Standards Laid Down by the ICAO are

  1. An airport(aerodrome) emergency plan shall:
  • Be established at an aerodrome
  • Commensurate with the aircraft operations and other activities conducted at the aerodrome
  1. The airport (aerodrome)emergency plan shall:
  • Provide for the coordination of the actions to be taken in an emergency

occurring at an aerodrome or in its vicinity

  1. The airport (aerodrome)emergency plan shall:

Coordinate the response or participation of all existing agencies which, in the opinion of the appropriate authority, could of assistance in responding to an emergency.

The Airport Emergency Plan sets forth the procedures for coordination the response of:

  • Different aerodrome agencies(or services)
  • Agencies in the surrounding community that could be of assistance in responding to the emergency

The Airport Emergency Plan provides initial response guidance to emergencies.

An airport emergency plan is a manual that details the:

  • Roles of various airport service agencies
  • Roles of various personnel involved
  • Responsibilities and actions required

Its procedures have been framed around the objectives:

  • Survival of aircraft occupants
  • Survival of airport related accident victims

An Airport Emergency Plan shall be establishment at an airport, Commensurate with the aircraft operations and other activities conducted at the aerodrome. An Airport Emergency Plan shall provide for the coordination of the actions to be taken in an emergency occurring at an airport or in its vicinity.

Examples of emergencies are:

  • Aircraft emergencies
  • Sabotage including bomb threats
  • Unlawfully seized (hijacked) aircraft
  • Dangerous goods occurrences
  • Building fires and natural disasters

Need to Establish Airport Emergency Plan

Airport emergency plans and procedures are established to ensure the following:

  • Organized transition from normal to emergency operations
  • Delegation of airport emergency authority
  • Assignment of emergency responsibilities
  • Authorization of key personnel for actions laid out in the plan
  • Coordination of efforts dealing with emergency
  • Continuation of safe and normal aircraft operations
  • Bringing airport operations back to normal.

Design of Airport Emergency Procedures

Airports emergency procedures are designed in such way that a lot practice exercise on emergency procedures is conducted regularly. Practice exercise are created after a lot of pre-planning. They provide opportunities for real world training to al agencies who are involved in airport emergency operations. The practice of Airport Emergency plan (AEP)is also mandated by ICAO. The plan shall observe Human Factor Principles to ensure optimum response by all existing agencies participating in emergency operations.

Agencies responsible On-Airport and Off-Airport Emergencies


On- Airport Emergency

Off- Airport Emergency

· Air Traffic control unity

·Fire departments

· Rescue and fire fighting services


· Aerodrome administration

·Medical and ambulance services


·Medical and ambulance services


·Aircraft operations


·Security services

·Harbor Patrol


·Coast guard


Contents of Airport Emergency Plan

The aerodrome emergency plan document shall include at least the following:

  1. Types of emergency planned for
  2. Agencies involved in the plan
  3. Responsibility and role of each agency, the emergency operations centre

    and the command post, for each type of emergency.

  1. Information on names and telephone numbers of offices or people to be

     contacted in the case of particular emergency.

  1. Grid map of the aerodrome and its immediate vicinity



Emergency Operations Centre and Command Post

Emergency Operations Centre

A fixed emergency operation centre and a mobile command post shall be available for use during an emergency.

The emergency operations centre shall be:

  • A part of the aerodrome facilities
  • Responsible for the overall coordination
  • Responsible for general direction of the response to an emergency

Command Post

The command post shall be a facility capable of being moved rapidly to the site of an emergency when required, and shall undertake the local coordination of those agencies responding to the emergency. A person shall be assigned to assume control of the emergency operations centre and when appropriate, another person will be assigned to the command post.

Communication Systems

Adequate communications systems linking the command post and the emergency operations centre with each other and with the participating agencies shall be provided. The communication post and the emergency operations centre with each other and with the participating agencies shall be provided will be in accordance with the plan and consistent with the particular requirements of the aerodrome.

Rescue and Fire Fighting Service(RFFS)

The principal objective of a rescue and fire fighting service is to save lives.

Therefore, the provision of:

  • Means of dealing with an aircraft accident or
  • Incident occurring at an aerodrome , or in the immediate vicinity of an aerodrome assumes primary importance

Rescue and fire fighting service have the maximum opportunities of saving lives. The need for extinguishing a fire following an aircraft accident or incident, or during rescue operations, is important at all times.

The most important factors bearing on effective rescue in a survivable aircraft accident are:

  • The training received
  • The effectiveness of the equipment
  • The speed with which personnel and equipment designated for rescue and fire fighting purposes can put into use

Rescue and fire fighting services maintain a response time not exceeding three minutes for any point of each operational runway and for any other part of the movement area. Requirements to combat building and fuel farm files, or to deal with foaming or runways , are not taken into account.

Types of Emergencies

The different types of emergencies in which an aircraft can be involved are;

  • Local Standby
  • Full Emergency
  • Hijack
  • Bomb threat

Emergencies which are typically disasters are:

  • Aircraft accident at the airport
  • Aircraft accident off the airport

Let us look at the procedures to be followed in such emergencies.

Local Standby

“An aircraft approaching the airport is known or is suspected to have developed some defeat but the trouble is not such as would normally involve any serious difficulty in effecting a safe landing. The ATC tower notifies on R/T, Hotline, Telephone, about Local Standby to Fire Watch Tower.

Local Standby

Duties and Responsibilities of the ATC Tower ATC Tower takes note on the following:

  • Type of Aircraft
  • Aircraft Operator and Flight number
  • Sector
  • Aircraft Operator
  • Flight number
  • Nature of trouble
  • EWT
  • Number of persons on board
  • Fuel on board

Official Agency to be Notified

  • Fire Watch Tower

The ATC Tower also performs the following duties:

  1. Remains in constant touch with fire Watch Tower and informs the position of aircraft
  2. Remains alert and prepared

Cancels and notifies cancellation of Local Standby to concerned authorities, when emergency situation subsides.

Local Standby

  • Duties and Responsibilities of the Watch Tower

The Fire Watch Tower receives the notification of local standby from the

ATC tower.


The Fire Watch Tower:

  • Notifies on R/T ,hotline, Telephone
  • Announces on the PA system about the Local Standby
  • Post notification action: Maintains vigilance and immediately issues notification through PA system to Fire station control room
  • Cancels and notifies cancellation of local standby tower to concerned authorities when notified by ATC.

Local Standby

* Duties and Responsibilities of Fire Service

The Fire Service receives the notification on Local Standby, from the Fire Watch Tower, and ensures that:

  • Crew is informed to maintain vigilance and listening watch on R/T
  • Crew is briefed to listen in their rescue and fire applications for instructions
  • Crew mount on their allocated fire appliance and remain prepared
  • All the rescue and fire appliance are started and kept on idle-run-up forquick dispatch when the aircraft is on short final

The fire service shift in charge maintains full alertness so that when the situation, demands, the local standby can be converted to full emergency.

Full Emergency

Full Emergency:-an aircraft approaching the airport is , or is suspected to be, in such trouble that there is danger of an accident.

The procedure for handling full emergency situation is similar to Local Standby.


Hijack/Hijacking or forceful seizure of an aircraft can be explained as:

  • Whoever boards an aircraft, unlawfully, by force, threat or any other form of intimidation and exercises control of the aircraft, commits the offence of hijacking an aircraft.
  • Attempt or abetting shall be deemed to have committed the Committed the offence of hijacking

Hijack Contingency Plan

There is a separate Hijack Contingency Plan laid down at the Airport. Action must be taken as per the Plan. AEP shall be in force till the time the Hijack Contingency Plan is activated. There are “Various Committees on whose instructions the Contingency of Hijack an Airport is handled.

However as a preventive measure, the Security Control Procedures are at action in normal situations which are called Anti-Hijacking measures.

Hijack-Apex Body

The apex decision making bodies, for handling the situation post-Hijack

  • Committee of Secretaries on Aircraft Hijack(C0SAH)
  • Central Committee (Delhi)
  • Aerodrome Committee at Airport level

Bomb Threat

Thousands of Passengers have lost their lives due to bomb explosion in mid air the airport. Bomb threat is a very serious threat to the civil aviation.

ICAO defines Bomb threat as:

A true or a false communicated threat. anonymous or otherwise, which Suggests, or infers that the safety of any person, an aircraft in flight, on the ground, or at any airport or civil aviation facility may be in danger from an explosive or other item or device.

Bomb Threat

When an item at any civil aviation facilities is suspected to be a bomb that authorities must raise a status of alert to activate bomb threat counter plan.

Prevention of Bomb Threat

Proper preventive measures must be adopted to handle a bomb threat that involves several agencies working in co-ordination with the other.

The bomb detection system at airport involves:

  • Integration of various agencies
  • Explosive detection equipment
  • Dogs and X-ray

The Bomb threats are assessed on a Bomb Warning Assessment Form (BWAF) by the Bomb Threat Assessment Committee (BATC), and then the Bomb Threat is declared as

  • Specific or
  • Non-Specific

Depending on the declaration the actions are taken by the concerned agencies.

Handling a Bomb Threat in an Aircraft at an Airport

When an aircraft at an airport faces a bomb threat, the aircraft must be removed to an isolated parking bay.

The aircraft must be subjected to a thorough search by:

  • Bomb Squad
  • Dog Squad
  • Airline Engineers
  • Airline Security
  • Airport Police
  • Airworthiness Officer

Aircraft Accident

The aircraft emergencies that occur at the airport or in the vicinity of the airport for which services are required are classified as an “Aircraft accident”.

 Let us look at the emergency procedures to deal with them in detail

Aircraft Accident at the Airport Duties and Responsibilities of the ATC Tower

The notification of an aircraft accident is first send by the aircraft or the Fire Station to the ATOC. The ATC then takes the following actions:

  • Immediately sound siren for 2 minutes and press crash bell
  • Immediately notifies the following agencies:
  • Main Fire Station
  • Apron Control
  • Watch Supervisory Officer(WSO)
  • ARO (Briefing Officer)
  • Met Office.

Notification given by the ATC Tower

The ATC gives the following notification:

  • Aircraft Operator and Flight no.
  • Type of Aircraft
  • Sector
  • Grid Location
  • Time of crash
  • of persons on board
  • Fuel on board
  • Details of accident

Duties and Responsibilities of the ARO (Briefing Officer)

The ARO receives the notification of the accident by the ATC Tower. The ARO than takes the following actions:

  • Notifies on R/T, hotline, Telephone
  • Issues NOTAM (Notice to airmen) along with the AAI, about non- availability of fire and rescue service
  • Prepares and sends a signal to DGCA, Director of Air Safety and other concerned authorities

Note: Agencies required to be involved have already been covered earlier.



  • Airport Emergency Plan
  • Types of emergencies
  • Procedures to handle different types of Emergencies