Meridian, Miss. All was quiet at Meridian Regional Airport Tuesday morning until a call came over the radio from an Army Chinook Helicopter declaring an in-flight emergency due to an engine fire, and requested to land. Thankfully in this case, it was just a drill, but Meridian Airport Authority Deputy Director Brad Kueven says things like this have happened in the past, so they practice regularly so they're always prepared.
"Thankfully accidents here are very few and far between. I believe the last one was an off-field crash landing about 5 years ago. At least once a year, we do some sort of emergency exercise. The one we had today is a full-scale emergency exercise where we bring everybody in. We do that once every 3 years."
10 people were aboard the Army Chinook Helicopter when it made it's emergency landing at Key Field. Two of those people would have had injuries serious enough to be taken to a local hospital, and they used this type of aircraft in the drill not only for the practice, but because they deal with this helicopter multiple times a day.
"Part of the reason for doing that is the Army Guard also has their emergency plans they need to exercise, so we did this as a joint exercise between the Army Guard and the Meridian Airport Authority."
It only took about 45 minutes between the time the emergency call came in and the airport was re-opened. Kueven credits the emergency personnel for their quick response time that led to the success of the drill..
"It has consistently impressed me with the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Air Guard, and all the first responders, it amazes me. They are so professional, and everything goes like clockwork."