Smoke and Flames at Ben Gurion as Airport Drills for Disaster

Emergency services carry out large-scale exercise to test readiness for a major air crash.

Staff at Israel's Ben Gurion airport were on Monday carrying out one of their largest ever emergency exercises to test their ability to cope with a major air disaster.

The exercise, which simulated the crash of a packed passenger airliner, was not expected to disrupt scheduled flights. But authorities predicted heavy traffic on roads leading to Ben Gurion, located off Israel's busiest traffic arteries, connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

A large-scale simulation takes place each year at the airport, buy this year's drill is of added importance, as with two of Ben Gurion's three runways closed for improvements, the airport is currently functioning on just one strip for both takeoffs and landing, adding new complexity to day-to-day operations.

Airport staff and emergency crews will simulate a crash by a 747-400-type aircraft after a failed emergency landing – a disaster that could leave around 200 people dead – practicing rescues and setting emergency centers for the injured and their families.

Unlike last year, the airport had no plans to torch a real plane, planning instead to use burning tires and scrap to produce the necessay smoke and flames. In the 2009 drill, the skeleton of a 747 used for training was completely destroyed by fire and while airport authorities have since purchased a replacement, they hope it will serve for several years to come.