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Exercise Challenger 14 – European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

11 June 2014 | Cologne, Germany

EASA Leadership

Pictured: EASA leaders respond to difficult questions during the press conference phase of the exercise.

Kenyon Associates Barbara Kracht, Petter Halfdansen and Mike Seear delivered Exercise Challenger 14 to the EASA Internal Crisis Coordination Cell (ICCC) at the EASA Head Office in Cologne, Germany on 11 June. This input-response simulation exercise was designed around the fictitious scenario of a major Airbus A380 (the world’s largest aircraft) emergency near Frankfurt International Airport. Because of EASA’s regulatory role in European civil aviation, the subsequent exercise play was ‘stretched’ over a timeframe of three months. The exercise therefore incorporated five phases, four ‘time-jumps’, and four scenario update briefings. The overall objective of the exercise was to generate a ‘reputational crisis’ for EASA in which there was a vital necessity for ‘proactive’ strategic management in the ICCC’s subsequent dealings with the mass-media and other international civil aviation agencies and organisations.

It was necessary to hold two briefings the day before the exercise. The first was for the Exercise Control staff, and a shorter one was held for the ICCC staff. Further ‘tweaks’ were added in the scenario which had taken some two and a half weeks to write. The next day, the exercise itself lasted nearly five hours. In addition to telephone inputs, further pressure was applied to the ICCC with the publication of twenty-one media inputs via an Exercise Media Web reporting on the consequences of the emergency. Not only amplifying the main ‘reputational crisis’ plot, these visual inputs also supplied the necessary ‘red herrings’ which, in turn, generated a Napoleonic ‘fog of war’ within a complicated and ever-evolving exercise scenario. The requirement therefor was to cut through the ‘fog’’ in order to grasp the essential facts upon which quality decisions could be made. Of vital importance was the maintenance of an effective crisis communications strategy. There was also the need for a political dimension to the scenario because EASA reports direct to the EU European Commissioner of Transport in Brussels.

Phase 5 of the exercise was a press conference at which the EASA Executive Director, Mr Patrick Ky, responded professionally to some difficult questions posed by the assembled ‘journalists’. Immediately afterwards a half-hour ‘hot wash-up’ debriefing took place for all exercise players and the Exercise Control staff. There were many positive comments about this form of ‘hands-on’ training, described as being ‘very realistic’.

It is the second such ultra-strategic crisis management exercise which Kenyon has delivered to EASA (Exercise Challenger 13 took place in January 2013). Hopefully it will not be the last.

Barbara Kracht

Pictured: Barbara Kracht (foreground) with the Excon Media Team

Pictured: Kenyon Senior Associate Mike Seear

Petter Halfdansen (Excon Coordinator) provides guidance to exercise participants.

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