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TRENTON, N.J. - A three-hour full-scale emergency exercise held May 14 at Trenton-Mercer Airport that included more than three dozen agencies was deemed a success, Mercer County officials said.

A full-scale exercise is mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration to be held once every three years to measure the level of preparedness of first responders and to allow the agencies that will respond to a true emergency to train together in a single venue.

“This exercise is extremely important because it helps us sharpen our regionalized approach to preparedness, coordination, and response to a large emergency incident,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes as he welcomed guests to the staging area on the airfield of TTN. “Every agency at every level, from the local fire department to the FBI, has to be on the same page when an emergency occurs in Mercer County. I'm confident this exercise will leave us better prepared for a real emergency.”

Representatives of various agencies and offices participated in the handling of the incident. Fire and rescue immediately reported to the “scene” and passengers were “triaged” and “treated.” Family and friends were “escorted” and “media” inquiries were responded to. Airport staff and other participants in the exercise will now evaluate the response and use information gained to improve or revise, if necessary, the airport emergency plan and emergency procedures. Also in attendance were Freeholder Andrew Koontz and Trenton City Councilman George Muschal.

For purposes of the exercise, the incident itself took place on board fictional “Trenton Air Flight #123,” an Embraer 125 aircraft holding 30 passengers and three crew members. The pilot reported to air traffic control total hydraulic failure and requested priority landing on Runway 34 at TTN, but seconds prior to touch down, wind shear caused the aircraft to bank heavily, careen down the runway and catch fire.

Fire fighting Station 34 was “dispatched” to the scene, and recognizing the seriousness of the incident Sheriff Officers made the decision to shut down all air and ground traffic to Trenton-Mercer. The airport administrators then established an emergency operations center and a Joint Information Center inside the main terminal in order to coordinate the incident response. Following the Airport Emergency Plan, agencies such as the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI, the New Jersey Division of Aeronautics, the County Office of Emergency Management and County Emergency Communications were contacted and their designated representatives were requested to report to Trenton-Mercer.

At the scene, airport aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel worked to extricate victims and extinguish the fire. EMS transported all live victims to area hospitals and a temporary portable morgue was set up. “Trenton Air” established an information center at a local hotel for family members, and TTN and County Administration provided information on the facility.

Once the incident was deemed under control and victims were removed, investigators were allowed on scene.

Numerous agencies participated in the full-scale emergency exercise, including in the planning, organizing, advising, and operational stages. They are as follows:
  • American Red Cross-Central Jersey Chapter
  • Budget Car Rental
  • Capital Health System Emergency Medical Services
  • Charter Air Transport
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
  • Trenton-Mercer Airport Administration
  • Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes
  • Mercer County Office of Communications
  • Mercer County DOT&I
  • Mercer County Division of Highways
  • Mercer County Park Commission
  • Mercer County Sheriff's Office
  • Mercer County Office of Emergency Management
  • Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
  • TTN Aircraft Rescue and Firefighters-Station 34
  • Mercer County Emergency Services Communications Center
  • New Jersey State Police
  • East Amwell Rescue (covered for Ewing Township)
  • East Windsor Rescue Squad District 1
  • Ewing Township Police Department
  • Ewing Township Office of Emergency Management
  • Ewing Township EMS
  • New Jersey Division of Aeronautics
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • US Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Prospect Heights Fire Company-Station 31
  • Pennington Road Fire Company-Station 32
  • Pennington Road First Aid Unit
  • Runway Restaurant
  • Streamline
  • TRADE
  • West Trenton Fire Company-Station 33
  • Union-Titusville Fire Company-Station 53
  • Midwest Air Traffic Control Services (staffs TTN Tower)
  • Mercer County Office of Communications
  • U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps – John T. Dempster Jr. Division