Emergency preparation: La Crosse Airport leaders rely on training for hazardous landings

Aircraft accidents remain rare, but La Crosse emergency leaders say they're always ready

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — A commercial airline crash in China that killed 132 people Monday renewed the conversation about aviation safety. While events like this are not common, La Crosse aviation experts believe they’re ready to respond when they do.

Last year, La Crosse Regional Airport airport director Ian Turner and his staff, along with emergency responders from around La Crosse, braced for an event, that’s unlikely but also not impossible.

“We had all of our mutual aid responders; fire departments from across the county,” Turner said. “Everyone was here and we put that plan into exercise.”

The very nature of aviation makes it expensive, Turner said, adding, “When you’re defying the laws of physics, getting on a metal tube with wings and going up into the air, you have to have that level of dedication.”

Everyone and everything has a specific role. Even the firetrucks Turner’s team uses are specifically designed for an aircraft fire. The La Crosse Regional Airport can support an emergency landing when it’s necessary.

A Federal Aviation Administration representative told News 8 Now that the pilot carries a majority of the responsibility during an emergency. A pilot can communicate with Turner’s staff to prepare for the landing.

“He’ll declare an emergency or the air traffic controller will declare an emergency for the aircraft — at which point, we’ll stage our firetrucks,” Turner said.

Data shows only two fatal incidents across the U.S. in the past decade. In context, the FAA handles 45,000 daily flights with more than 5,400 aircraft in the sky at peak operational times.

“We have the safest aviation system worldwide,” Turner said. “It’s far safer than getting in your vehicle and driving down the interstate.”

A plane stays on the ground even for the slightest of issues. Delays cause inconvenience but caution ensures that people arrive at their destinations.

Turner said a new firetruck is in the works. He expects to have one delivered within the next year; most of the funding for the firetruck will come from the FAA.

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