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News Releases

April 14, 2017


SANTA ANA, Calif. - Earlier today, John Wayne Airport (JWA) conducted a full-scale, mass-casualty exercise involving more than 500 volunteers, observers, support staff and emergency responders. Staged on the west side of the airfield, the drill allowed Airport officials and emergency responders to test and practice operational capabilities in response to a simulated aircraft accident involving a 90-passenger, commercial service airplane and a four-seat helicopter.

“While it is our hope that we never experience any of the emergencies we train for, we are committed to providing the very best response to our passengers, tenants and our community,” said Airport Director Barry A. Rondinella. “Exercises like this are a key component of emergency response planning and preparedness. We are proud to work in concert with our partner agencies to ensure the Airport is ready in the event of an emergency.”  

The airplane fuselage and helicopter were positioned on the airfield for purposes of staging “victim” passengers for the drill.

JWA AirEx 2017

Simulated emergency response to mass-casualty exercise at JWA

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During the drill, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) arrived on the scene and extinguished a virtual fire associated with the crash.  Emergency responders then evacuated and triaged volunteer “victims” who were taken to a simulated hospital by ambulance or helicopter, or to an on-site Passenger Reception Area. Volunteers, evaluators and observers in these locations were briefed by the airline, Airport staff, American Red Cross, Orange County Health Care Agency and other mutual aid responders on hospital operations and the support and assistance provided to passengers, crew and family/friends.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that commercial service airports conduct a full-scale, mass-casualty exercise every three years to maintain Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 139 Airport Certification. In intervening years, JWA conducts tabletop exercises to review emergency response plans with its mutual-aid partners in a classroom setting.

Subsequent to this year’s full-scale exercise, JWA will have an Airport recovery exercise in late May 2017 which will focus more specifically on Family Assistance Center operations and the long-term recovery efforts following this type of incident.

In addition to John Wayne Airport, the following agencies participated in the drill:

  • Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Airport Police Services were first on scene with 30 Deputies and Sheriff’s Special Officers, nine Sheriff vehicles and one helicopter, providing law enforcement support.
  • Orange County Health Care Agency, Emergency Medical Services provided coordination and support of ambulance response, as well as coordination with the American Red Cross for patient location at hospitals.
  • Orange County Fire Authority responded with more than 50 vehicles and 200 personnel from Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station 33 at JWA, neighboring fire stations and their engines, medic units, command vehicles, a heavy rescue vehicle and various support vehicles, including one helicopter.  
  • American Red Cross, Orange County Chapter simulated the creation and functionality of a Friends and Family Reception Center and a Family Reunification Center in partnership with Alaska Airlines, and provided care and emotional support to victims and their families following the aircraft incident.
  • Alaska Airlines represented the airline involved in the incident and simulated their response to volunteer passengers, families and friends.
  • More than 40 ambulances, coordinated by Care Ambulance, responded and transported victims to a simulated hospital, as well as the Orange County Fire Authority, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Mercy Air with airlift operations.
  • Representatives from Long Beach Fire, Newport Beach Fire, Costa Mesa Fire, Huntington Beach Fire, City of Orange Fire and Garden Grove Fire took part as evaluators and participants, enabling them to provide informed, unbiased feedback.
  • More than 100 members of local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) participated as volunteer victims and in other volunteer roles.


John Wayne Airport (SNA) is owned by the County of Orange and is operated as a self-supporting enterprise that receives no general fund tax revenue. The Airport serves more than 10 million passengers annually and reaches more than 20 nonstop destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico. More information can be found at Like us on, or follow us on Twitter @johnwayneair and Instagram @johnwayneair.