EXTINGUISHING FEAR, ENSURING SAFETY
Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) services are vital for the safety of airport operations by ensuring rapid intervention, quick knock-down and swift rescue exercises. The major areas of concern in aviation are passengers, airport installation, aircraft movement and aviation fuel. As per the statistics, most of the aircraft crashes occur within the vicinity of the airport.
The provision for the means to deal with an aircraft accident or an incident occurring at, or in the immediate vicinity of an aerodrome assumes primary importance. It is within this area that there is the greatest possibility of saving lives. ARFF must assume at all times the need for extinguishing a fire, which may occur either immediately following an aircraft accident or at any time during rescue operations.
Aircraft firefighting techniques are very complicated in nature, requiring skills and training with adherence to very high standards. Multitasking skills are crucial as fire control, suppression, rescue, medical triage, etc., need to commence simultaneously.
The principal objective of a rescue and firefighting service is to save lives in the event of an aircraft accident or incident occurring at an aerodrome or around its immediate vicinity. The rescue and firefighting services are provided to create and maintain survivable conditions, to provide egress routes for occupants and to initiate the rescue of those occupants, who are unable to ensure their own escape from the aircraft on fire without direct aid.
The most important factors responsible for an effective rescue operation in a survivable aircraft accident are: the training received, the effectiveness of the equipment and the speed with which the personnel and equipment designated for rescue and firefighting purposes can be put into use.
The number and type of firefighting appliances based at an airport will be determined by the airport’s category. Airports in India are categorised from ‘01’ to ‘10’ depending on the type and size of aircraft they handle. The AAI’S Chennai and Kolkata airports are ‘Category-10’ as they cater to the biggest aircraft, namely the Airbus A380, and, therefore, require extensive rescue and firefighting cover as determined by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The operational objective of the ARFF is to achieve the response time of two minutes, not exceeding three minutes (in optimum visibility and surface conditions), to any point of each operational runway and for any other part of the movement area.
Response time is considered to be the time between the initial call to the ARFF, and the time when the first responding vehicle(s) is (are) in position to apply foam at a rate of at least 50 per cent of the discharge rate specified for the airport fire category.
The ARFF services will respond to all aircraft emergencies within the airport’s boundaries and will also respond to ‘off airport’ incidents that fall within eight kilometres of the airport boundary. All incidents that occur outside the airport boundary are the responsibility of the local fire and rescue service authority serving
that location. While local firefighters are trained to deal with aircraft accidents, they do not receive the same level of training as airport firefighters, whose expertise is more specialised.
Some of the other incidents that ARFF deals with include road incidents in the airport, as well as chemical spillages, fires/ rescues in airport buildings and special service calls on the airport. Firefighters at major airports are specially trained to handle Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergencies in coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
AIRFIELD CRASH FIRE TENDERS
To meet the operational objective, as closely as possible in less than optimum conditions of visibility, especially during low-visibility operations – suitable guidance, equipment and/or procedures for rescue and firefighting services are provided. The firefighting vehicles and equipment used by Airport Fire Services (AFS) are the most advanced in terms of technology.
The number and type of firefighting appliances based at an airport will also be determined by the airport’s category. Since the ‘Category-10’ airport requires extensive rescue and firefighting cover, the fire appliances used by ARFF normally consist of a fleet of large high-volume pumping vehicles known as Airfield Crash Fire Tenders (ACFT), which are capable of carrying an enormous amount of foam or other fire extinguishing component or equipment in bulk, and then applying it under massive pressure and volume at the scene of the fire. Most airport fire appliances are equipped with a roof-mounted high volume ‘monitor’ or ‘turret’ that can shoot the fire extinguishing component to huge distances while in motion. This means that an approaching fire appliance can begin tackling flames before it is positioned close to the scene of the fire. AAI has ACFT Rosenbauer Panther (Austria make) and TATRA T815 (Czech Republic make) in its fleet at all airports.
ROSENBAUER PANTHER ACFTS
A Rosenbauer Panther ACFT is equipped with a Euro-v compliant engine having an acceleration of 0-80 km within 28 seconds, while fully loaded. Its water tank capacity is 10000 litres, while its foam tank capacity is 1300 litres. The roof mounted turret can spray an astounding 6,000 litres per minute up to a distance of 90 meters using powerful built-in pumps.
TRAINING & FITNESS
Airport firefighters specialise in dealing with complex fires and rescues from the aircraft. A great deal of their daily routine is spent training and participating in drills for such events. Unlike their local authority counterparts, airport firefighters have to undergo training every five years to remain competent. For the purposes of training personnel, AAI maintains two Fire Training Centres (FTC) at Delhi and Kolkata.
AAI Rescue and Fire Services have been committed to undertaking efforts on the focused mission of the organisation to achieve the highest standards of safety and quality in air traffic services and airport management by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure for total customer satisfaction, contributing to the economic growth and prosperity of the nation.
A firefighter in action
A Rosenbauer Panther crash fire tender in action
Apex formation by ARFF crew during a mock drill
ARFF crew during a routine training session at FTC, Delhi