“Flight DT-13, you are clear to land. Welcome to London!” said the Deputy Controller with a voice that was equal measure cheerful and efficient. He clicked off the transmitter and turned to his superior.
“12 hundred hours, Sir.”
“Thank you, Stevens.”
Commander Norman had been watching the approaching flight through a pair of binoculars. He moved across to the emergency console and typed in a sequence of commands, then picked up his radio microphone.
“Attention Crash Crews Bravo and Delta. Scheduled emergency drill will be carried out in Sector Three in T Minus Five minutes.”
“Roger. Standing by.” came the brisk reply.
Norman keyed another sequence into the control computer. It ticked and whirred and a red light illuminated with an audible ping.
“Well,” he said, “Let’s see what they make of this one.”
He pressed the confirmation button.
Some distance away, on the other side of the airport, sat a lone aircraft. To the casual observer there was nothing remarkable about it, bar the fact that it never seemed to move from its position near the perimeter fence.
It looked like many of the other aircraft that could be seen taking off and landing on the many runways every day of the week. It had in fact started its life as a BAOC Cumulus 750, but it had been many years since it had flown.
The moment Norman pressed the switch in the control tower, the Cumulus 750 burst into flames.
Seconds later came the wail of crash tenders and emergency vehicles as Response Teams Bravo and Delta hurtled towards the burning aircraft. The swarm of trucks, jeeps and ambulances spread out as they skidded to a halt at the disaster site.
The leader of Bravo team began directing his fire tenders to train their appliances on the flaming fuselage. Streams of thick, greenish retardant foam burst from the high-pressure hoses and platforms of the assembled machines.
Meanwhile, the leader of Delta team headed the recovery effort on an emergency lift platform, which was rising to the aft port-side escape door away from the flames. She performed the emergency release procedure and the hatch fell away, deploying the escape slide and allowing her and the accompanying personnel inside.
The cabin was filling with smoke and the team had to crouch low to avoid the worst of it.
Expertly, she began directing the passengers to follow one of her team to safety, repeating that they should stay calm. The other member of the emergency crew proceeded to the over-wing escape doors on the opposite side of the craft and released two more evacuation slides, helping the passengers to the ground.
“Bravo Leader to Delta Leader,” came an urgent voice from her radio, “We’re barely holding these flames! Get those people out of there!”
“Roger!” she shouted back.
There was a pained cry from somewhere ahead of her. She made her way along the aisle and shone her flashlight about.
The smoke made it difficult to see, but it seemed as though the rest of the passengers and crew had made it to safety. Except one.
He was lying across the aisle in an awkward position. The Delta team leader reckoned he must have been inadvertently injured in the rush to leave.
She spoke into her radio, “Delta Two, I’m in the forward cabin. I have one injured passenger and require a stretcher.”
“This is Delta Two. Bravo Leader reports the fire is out of control. It’s already cut off everything except for the starboard over-wing exit. You’ve got to leave. Now!”
“Understood! But have that stretcher waiting!”
She bent down and put her arms around the prone form of the passenger.
“Okay buddy,” she said, “This is probably going to hurt, but I’m getting you out of here, okay?”
Then with a great heave, she hoisted the injured man up and along the aisle to the starboard exit. As they reached it, the man groaned and then passed out.
Delta Leader hauled him over to the exit hatch and set him in place, laying him down with his arms across his chest as best as she could.
Then with one movement, she pushed him over the threshold and then followed him down the evacuation slide to the waiting response team, who caught the passenger at the end of the slide.
Somewhere nearby a siren sounded a series of short blasts and then as if by magic the flames covering the Cumulus 750 suddenly vanished.
Commander Norman’s voice rang out from a concealed loudspeaker, “Evacuation of all passengers and crew completed within the required time frame. Good work Bravo and Delta teams. The exercise is complete. Return to your normal duties.”
Norman watched the ranks of volunteer passengers including the ‘injured’ man walking away from the drill aircraft to a nearby building as the emergency vehicles packed up and headed to their deployment hangar.
The whole thing had been a carefully controlled drill of course. All of the supposed ‘passengers’ had been wearing fireproof safety garments and the ‘smoke’ had been a non-toxic mist. The injured man had been briefed on what sort of injury he had apparently sustained before the exercise and played the part accordingly. The flames were real enough, but they moved on command and could be extinguished at the touch of a button.
Knowing that International Rescue would always answer a call for help was one thing, but Norman also knew that having his Crash Crews well trained and ready for action in the event of a real emergency was absolutely vital.
He typed the results of the drill into the computer and smiled with satisfaction as the red indicator light flickered to green.
“Just another day at the office, Stevens.”
“Right you are, Sir.” Stevens replied with a grin.