ARFF: the right approach

Airport fire engine

Aircraft rescue and firefighting is a vital part of operations for airports large and small. But given that investment in equipment and vehicles will be significant how do operators make sure they are getting the right solution for them? Airport Focus spoke to ARFF vehicle company Oshkosh to find out.

Airport fire engineHow important is it for ARFF vehicles to be designed to perform specific functions, constructed for longevity and ease of maintenance, and tailored to meet each airport’s needs?

While ICAO regulates general aspects of ARFF response level, there is no harmonized or regulated tactics per se. Each airport will specify their trucks to fit their own firefighting techniques depending on the configuration of the airport and staff management, amongst others.

It is therefore paramount for Oshkosh to integrate in the vehicle design and manufacturing process a high level of customization to cater for all these different tactics. The Oshkosh Striker is offered with a wide choice of standard options and with the ability to offer special bespoke options.

The Oshkosh Striker is also inherently designed with user friendliness in mind. In case of a crash, the operator has a few minutes to carry out his or her lifesaving mission. Colour coded functions and internationally recognized symbols instead of text will, for example, render his or her tasks instinctive. Having a walk in maintenance area also contributes to making preventative checks and inspection easier, thus reducing potential downtime.

On average, an ARFF vehicle normally has a 10-12 year service life and, in many cases, even longer based on an airports’ level of activity. What factors determine the need to replace an existing vehicle or procure a different model of new vehicle?

New technologies that enhance operators’ safety and fire suppression efficiency are a major driver towards fleet replacement. As an example, we have seen in Europe a strong move towards the Oshkosh Snozzle High Reach Extensible Turret (HRET) which allows firemen to combat fires from the safety of cab with a water output 10 times superior to that of a hand line.

How has the introduction of much larger aircraft (Airbus 380) influenced the development of the latest ARFF vehicles?

It has basically made the use of the Oshkosh Snozzle even more important. Our 50 foot Snozzle HRET will reach the top of the upper deck of an A380 and discharge agent with great accuracy where needed. The Snozzle is also a great tool for low attack and can reach critical areas below the fuselage. Last but not least, the piercing function of the Snozzle becomes even more tactically important when confronted with a fire on the upper deck.

Is there an environmental and sustainability aspect to the use of ARFF equipment? How do you ensure these requirements are met?

ARFF vehicles are not a major contributor to atmospheric pollution as they do a relatively limited mileage per year. However, the Oshkosh Striker features engines certified with latest anti-pollution regulation whether EPA or Euro. Four Strikers were delivered this year in the United Kingdom (UK) with Deutz Tier 4 final engines. Our new 8 X 8 will include 2 Scania engines with that technology.

There are minimum levels of fire fighting agents by type and quantity within a vehicle system to support a specific airport index under the regulations. What should airports be looking for in terms of a vehicle’s agent carrying capacity

Oshkosh offers the Striker in 3 configurations:

  • 4 X 4, carrying up to 6,500 liter of water, 800 liter of foam
  • 6 X 6, carrying up to 12,500 liter of water, 1,580 liter of foam
  • 8 X 8, carrying up to 17,500 liter of water, 2,400 liter foam

When investing in a new ARFF fleet, airports should first decide what type of foam they will use (A,B or C) as this dictates the minimum level of water and foam required under ICAO standards.

There are then different approaches depending on the airport strategy. In Europe, the UK and France do not use any 8 X 8 configurations while it is a very popular choice for Germany.

Globally, the most popular model is the 6 X 6 which gives a good compromise between carrying capacity, complexity and staff management.

Carrying capacity is the “easy” criteria to decide upon as it is regulated. Airports will have to also consider the following important but non exhaustive criteria:

  1. Acceleration
  2. Back up vehicles
  3. Training needs
  4. Airport and fire station configuration
  5. Number of staff
  6. Maintenance

What are the levels of training required to operate new vehicles for experienced ARFF personnel? Do you provide this training as a standard feature for each procurement?

Oshkosh provides first class training facilities thanks to a partnership with Fox Valley Technical College. Based in Appleton (Wis), a few miles away from Oshkosh Corporation headquarters, the College is dedicated to fire fighting techniques and offers an extensive range of training programmes. These are proposed to our customers and / or included in our commercial offers, in line with customer requests.

We also provide operator and maintenance training on customers’ site conducted by our Field Technical personnel or our local dealers.

Is there any crossover for vehicle use between ARFF and standard fire fighting? If not, should there be given that ARFF vehicles are normally a high cost/low usage investment?

The crossover between ARFF and municipal fire fighting does exist but remains exceptional for the following main reasons:

  1. ARFF trucks cannot be diverted from their ARFF mission without involving or risking airport index loss.
  2. ARFF trucks are designed to discharge massive amount of water in a very short time. This might not be the right tactic for structural fires.
  3. ARFF trucks use foam for type B fires.

Major airport will therefore usually have their own structural fire trucks for type A fires and smaller airports will rely on local municipal fire brigades.

There is a technology crossover with the Oshkosh Snozzle HRET which was initially developed for ARFF but is now also installed on municipal / industrial fire trucks to reach higher parts of buildings or industrial plants.

Do airports provide you with detailed feedback on the real incident performance of your vehicles and equipment? What lessons have you learned from any feedback given?

Getting customer feedback is essential to maintain and enhance our position on the market. Oshkosh conducts regular “Voice of Customer” exercises that make sure that we constantly develop products and options in line with what end users want. When Oshkosh developed the new Global Striker, a team of product specialists travelled around the world during several months to interview customers

We do know for example that our TAK-4 independent suspension are highly appreciated by Striker operators. We therefore did our utmost to make them even better with the development of Integrated Spring Dampeners which make the ride incredibly smooth and controllable in all terrain conditions.

Having a walk-in maintenance cabinet is also a direct result of customer feedback.

Real incident feedback does count also to continually improve the Striker. These mainly revolve around ease of operation and safety. What we have learned from all these different forms of feedback is that fire fighters have a very pragmatic “no nonsense” approach to ARFF. They want a simple, safe, reliable and user friendly truck that does the job.

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