The team of 25 firefighters at the company’s in house fire service, based at Warton, Lancashire, is making use of the latest technology at their purpose-built training facility on the south side of the site’s airstrip.
The high-tech Fire Ground Training Simulator replaces a previously used facility, which was much smaller and was based on a hybrid of a civil aircraft and a Harrier jet.
Providing a rare glimpse inside the facility, built to replicate the Company’s 146 airliner, station Watch Manager Kieran Merriman, says it is allowing his team to undertake the latest training techniques and build the specialist skills needed to deal with incidents involving the biggest aircraft at the site.
Crews from the service are on standby during daily flights at Warton as well as test flights of some of the world’s most technologically advanced fighter jets.
And while our Company’s aircraft, including Typhoon and Hawk, have an impeccable safety record at Warton, Mr Merriman says the new facility now ensures firefighters can access the most realistic on-site training possible should a real incident ever occur.
He said: “The new fire training simulator has been designed to provide the most realistic training environment possible for our firefighters.
“Having a facility on site allows the fire fighters to train to a high standard. This training ensures they are competent and prepared to work within the hazardous environments that they may encounter.
“The old facility was loosely based on a hybrid between a small civil aircraft and a Harrier. However, it was very small and didn’t accurately represent the type of aircraft that we encounter at Warton.
“The new facility has been constructed around the same fuselage dimensions as the 146 aircraft. Therefore we are providing our fire fighters with a training environment that is conducive to the largest type of aircraft that they are regularly likely to encounter.”
The facility allows firefighters to take on outside and inside fire scenarios which may be encountered on a runway. Sensors inside the facility also allow trainers to monitor the exposure of firefighters to heat, ensuring the area is as realistic but safe as possible.
In the external areas firefighters can tackle fires on replica engine fire and undercarriages as well as fuel leaks, using live fire.
Meanwhile, the internal side of the facility simulates a structural collapse in an aircraft, allowing them to practice search and rescue techniques and use thermal imaging technology in the most realistic surroundings possible.
The use of live fire – using kerosene lit with a pilot light - means firefighters can train in the kinds of fire, smoke and heat conditions they would encounter in a real emergency.
Mr Merriman, who led on the facility’s design, testing and installation, added: “Specialist training is required here in several significant areas. Specific to Warton, we train our firefighters around the military fast jets, including special attention to the escape systems and the hazards these pose in the event of a rescue.
“The risks that ordinary firefighters face, broadly speaking, are known and well researched. A lot of what we do at Warton is cutting edge including some of our work with the Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).
“The simulator here at Warton has been upgraded with the use of latest technology. This includes auto alarms that are connected to thermo-couples within the training simulator, which means that we can accurately monitor the exposure of our firefighters to the effects of heat, therefore providing a safe yet realistic and challenging environment.
“Additionally the four thermo-couples are linked into a computer that electronically records the internal temperatures. The use of Avtur (kerosene) as a fuel for burning is the most accurate and realistic available.”
Crews at Warton, who are also responsible for fire safety and the emergency ambulance on the site, use a fleet of high-tech six-wheel drive Rosenbauer fire engines, which have off-road tyres designed to negotiate conditions at the end of the runway.
The 39 tonne vehicles can deliver 6,100 litres of water every minute. They can also carry 1,500 litres of foam and secondary media, including 225kg of dry powder.