A full emergency operation was mounted at Palma airport yesterday when a plane collided with an airport bus carrying six passengers and burst into flames after being forced to make an emergency landing because its landing gear failed to operate. The scenario was in fact a simulated air accident training exercise for Palma and airport fire brigades organised as part of the fifth Emergency Service Congress currently being held in the Majorcan capital. The air accident occurred at 12.50 and a total 12 firemen, with the full support of all airport emergency services, police and medical units, were involved in the 15-minute exercise. Chief of the airport fire brigade, Alberto Pueyo, debriefed delegates at the conference after explaining that it took the emergency services two minutes to respond and reach the scene of the accident. The first task was for the fire crews to reduce the intensity of the flames before firemen, wearing breathing apparatus, were ordered into the burning aircraft and coach to transfer the total eleven passengers, five on board the plane and six inside the coach, to a special emergency tent set up on the runway. From there, victims needing hospital treatment were rushed to local clinics. Head of the Palma fire service, Guillermo García Pol, said after the exercise that he was satisfied with how the emergency teams responded, adding that in such accidents, time is of the essence. The operation was a puzzle which we perfectly put together, he added. Spanish security chiefs have described Palma airport as one of the safest in Spain and one of the facilities best equipped to deal with an emergency. Over the past year two planes with under carriage problems have been diverted to Palma. Apart from the fact that Palma has two runways, it is also the headquarters for all of Spain's airlines, apart from state air carrier Iberia. It also has a neighbouring airforce base should military assistance ever be needed. Over 2'000 litres of fuel were used in yesterday's exercise with an old EMT Palma public bus and a three-piece metallic shell being set alight by firemen. The exercise was located well away from the new terminal in order not to disrupt air traffic and the routine running of the airport. The Emergency Services Congress comes to a close this afternoon in Palma.
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