Auckland Airport will be running a full-scale emergency drill tomorrow to test response to a plane crash.

About 180 volunteers in four buses parked in a remote stand will be the ''crash victims'' and the airport's fire units, other emergency services - including Fire, Police and St Johns - will be involved with border agencies and airlines.

The airport says the exercise will take place on the airfield behind the International Terminal Building starting at 10am.

During the exercise passengers will evacuate and emergency services will arrive on site to help them and where necessary transport them to a hospital on site.

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The first phase is a two-hour full-scale emergency response exercise (10am – 12pm) followed by a reconciliation process which usually occurs after a full-scale emergency and will run from 1pm to 3pm). Reconciliation allows authorities to handle the fallout from an emergency and deal with the relatives of casualties.

The exercise, this year named ''Blue Sky 18,'' is required every three years by the Civil Aviation Authority and is in addition to monthly drills.

Auckland Airport's general manager of operations Anna Cassels-Brown said the exercise could be cancelled at any time if a real emergency should occur.

The airport's emergency service is comprised of 68 people running four shifts around the clock.

It has four Rosenbauer Panthers, one domestic fire truck, a command vehicle and a medical response vehicle. The service also has two hovercraft, a catamaran and a monohull jet boat.

Two crashes at or near the airport - which opened in January 1966 - have resulted in fatalities.

An Air New Zealand DC-8 on a training flight crashed in July that year, killing the pilot and the flight engineer. In 1979 a Fokker Friendship on a flight from Gisborne crashed into the Manukau Harbour 1km short of the runway, killing a crew member and a passenger.