Logan Airport Fire Drill Causes Scare for Travelers

No notices were sent out to let people know the fire was part of a monthly exercise.

A plane on fire near the tarmac at Logan Airport was nothing more than a monthly drill being conducted by first responders, but the lack of warning or notice from officials at MassPort, the agency that runs the airport, had some passengers on edge.

A series of tweets and an Instagram photo sent out by television celebrity Andrew Zimmern, who was at Logan when the drill was taking place, showed what looked like a plane engulfed in flames, shooting plumes of smoke into the air in plain view of where passengers board their flights. “Am I alone seeing a plane on fire on Tarmac at Logan in Boston? Lots of lights and responding vehicles and a blackened hull spewing flames,” he said.

Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said the flames were likely part of the airport’s monthly training drills, where they set a fuselage replica aflame and then try and put it out as if responding to a real-life emergency.

While the Boston Fire Department isn’t part of that training, MacDonald said he hadn’t heard any actual calls come through for backup, so he was confident it wasn’t a real emergency. “There’s nothing in right now, and we get calls once a month or so when they light the plane on fire. I’m sure it’s the training,” he said. “They have their own fire department, run by the state, so Boston isn’t part of the drill.”

Once the complaints started rolling in online, and Zimmern’s celebrity status called attention to the issue, Logan officials confirmed as much on Twitter, and said, “MassPort Fire is just conducting a training exercise.”

Calls made to MassPort and MassDOT officials were not immediately returned.

What was most alarming about the drill, according to witnesses watching from the windows, was that no notices were posted or tweeted by officials from MassPort or Logan Airport. “Wow. Test burns and training ops should be announced in airport. Lots of scared [people] staring out windows. No officials saying anything,” said Zimmern.

This isn’t the first time that MassPort officials caused a stir when conducting these types of drills, either. Last year, officials from Logan issued an apology on for holding a fire-training drill on the airfield, the same day as the anniversary of the September 11 attack. As services across the country remembered the victims of the attack, Boston Logan Airport emergency responders conducted the drill on the tarmac, which included putting out a fire next to a replica of a small plane.