This is just a drill! Training at Barnes ANG Base simulated air show crash

Exercise held in advance of this summer's air show

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Disaster at an air show: more than 30 organizations responded to that scenario at Barnes Air National Guard Base Wednesday, but it was all planned.

This summer, the base will be hosting its first air show in seven years, and with that in mind, they wanted to make sure they are prepared for the worst.

Planes have crashed during air show performances before; such a crash involving the Blue Angels took place last June in Tennessee.

In the scenario that played out during Wednesday’s training exercise, an acrobatic plane clipped the wings of another plane while in formation. One of the planes crashed onto a crowd looking at a C-130 from the Rhode Island National Guard, while the other plane crashed into an open field.

Representatives from more than 30 federal, state, and local agencies were there Wednesday to act out how they would respond. About 25 Barnestormers pretended to be victims or unruly spectators, to help in the response.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been participating at air shows during my career where we’ve had accidents and the command and control, the communication and how everyone’s going to respond, these exercises are really critical to make sure we’re ready to respond the right way if that does happen,” 104th Fighter Wing Commander Col. James Suhr said.

Organizations on hand included local police and fire departments, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and MassDOT, among others.

“We’ve got to triage everybody that’s either walking wounded or deceased at the scene and we got to try to ascertain what priority patients they are,” said Travis Witbeck, a firefighter at the 104th Fighter Wing’s Fire Department.

All this while the 104th Fighter Wing’s F-15 fighter jets continued their daily, real-life mission of protecting the eastern seaboard.

The Westfield International Air Show will be held on August 12 and 13.