Airport Firefighters Train To Fight Flames On Passenger Planes

Updated: 06/15/2013 5:53 PM By: Stephen Tellier

It's training they hope they never have to use -- fighting massive flames on board a passenger plane at Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport.
"They're very, very flammable," said Assistant Chief of the Airport Fire Department.
Flames engulf the aircraft, and spread to the tarmac.
"We've got actual flames and smoke, and we've got the wind," Fuller said.
Firefighters blast it with foam and water.
"A thousand gallons per minute, or more," Fuller said.
It may be a simulated training exercise, but it's still tough work.
"We have to combine all those, and figure out, 'How are we going to control this fire and knock it down?'" Fuller said.
The response time for crews has to be lightning quick -- they have to be able to get to the middle of any runway within three minutes.
Once there, they let the trucks do the dirty work.
"The truck itself is really the firefighting tool," Fuller said.
5 Eyewitness News had a front seat as firefighters battled surging flames and strong winds, using two turrets mounted on the roof and bumper. There's skill and strategy to this -- focusing the foam and water on the plane's exits, creating a clearing for potential passengers fleeing the flames.
"We cut a path with that water and foam that we're spraying out of the trucks, and try to protect that opening, whatever the openings might be," Fuller said.
Airport firefighters also have to be mindful of the number one hazard: Jet fuel.
"The pans out here in front of the aircraft on this side are all simulating a spill fire -- fuel -- that would be coming from an aircraft," Fuller said.
Firefighters run this drill over and over. It's invaluable training for folks who thankfully don't get much practice.
Over the past three days, they also practiced fighting fires inside an aircraft, and fires confined to a plane's engine. The training is required annually by the FAA, as all big airports have to conduct it to keep their certification.