If you saw smoke billowing from Jack Edwards National Airport last week, it wasn’t an airplane accident or building fire. Gulf Shores Fire Department hosted a live-fire training exercise with the assistance of the U.S. Navy’s mobile aircraft fire trainer. Orange Beach Fire Department also participated in the training.
The U.S. Navy’s mobile aircraft fire trainer is a trailer-mounted aircraft replica. The training systems are controlled from a central control center and fueled by propane to allow realistic fire training in a safe, controlled and environmentally sound manner. Fire scenarios include galley, fuselage, cargo, passenger area, wheel-brake and three engine fires (low wing, high wing and tail engines).
“This type of training is very safe. If something goes wrong, one of the three simulator operators has their thumb on a switch, and if they take their thumb off the switch, it immediately shuts the fire down, reverses the fan and reverses the vents to get all the heat out. A team is standing by to go into the fire if there is an emergency,” said George Surry, fire marshal.
“Jack Edwards National Airport is within the Gulf Shores Fire Departments response area so we must be ready to respond to any emergency scenarios. The Federal Aviation Administration has requirements for Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) teams and strict rules for minimum monthly training. Gulf Shores has 22 ARFF Certified firefighters that participate in monthly online classes to meet the Federal Aviation Administration certification requirements. In the classes, they learn about different aircraft, communications, water supply and airport operations. The ARFF certified firefighters are dispersed throughout the teams, so they are always on duty,” Surry said.
The airport authority purchased a Rapid Response Vehicle and donated it to the city of Gulf Shores to meet the Federal Aviation Administration requirements for 139. The rapid response vehicle is equipped to handle aircraft-based emergencies. It features foam, and Federal Aviation Administration required dry chemicals.
“In the future, the Airport Authority plans to build an airport fire station,” said Scott Fuller, airport manager.
“There are a lot of operators that need fire protection on the airport in order to come in here. Without Gulf Shores Fire Department there are many businesses we would not be able to accommodate,” Fuller said.