Macon-Bibb, Robins firefighters train together on mock aircraft

wcrenshaw@macon.comDecember 18, 2013 

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Responding to a blazing aircraft crash is dangerous business involving considerable trust among firefighters, which is why they don’t care to do it with people they’ve never met.

On Wednesday, firefighters from Robins Air Force Base and the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department trained together on a mock aircraft that simulates a crash fire, complete with huge flames shooting out of the structure. The two agencies have a mutual aid agreement that means both may respond when there is a crash, which happened this year when a private plane went down in Bibb County.

Firefighters from both agencies said the training gives them a chance to get to know each other and make sure they are on the same page when battling an aircraft fire together.

“Every time we go into something like this we could be putting our lives in the hands of our fellow firefighters,” said Capt. Alan Lee, of the base fire department. “That’s one thing this does is help build that relationship with other firefighters so that they know what we are thinking, and we know what they are thinking.”

Macon-Bibb firefighters are stationed at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, but they don’t have a crash simulator there, so getting to use the one at the base provides valuable, required training.

The joint training was also done Monday and will be done again Friday. Seven Macon-Bibb firefighters took part Wednesday.

The Robins simulator, which is made of steel, looks most similar to a C-130, but for the purposes of Wednesday’s training it was a C-17. Each aircraft requires different tactics when it comes to battling a blaze, so various planes are represented in training sessions.

A liquefied petroleum gas system that fuels the fire can be altered to simulate blazes in different parts of the plane each time.

Lt. Chad Davis, a Macon-Bibb firefighter stationed at the airport, said he had never responded to an aircraft crash or experienced a simulator, so he was grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s going to be a learning experience for me for sure,” he said.

The exercise began with a call going out over the radio that a plane was down, with a detailed description of the nature of the blaze.

Two fire trucks then swooped in, shooting water cannons that quickly extinguished the blaze on the exterior.

In a real aircraft fire , foam would be used but for various reasons, including environmental, water simulated the foam in the training. The firefighters then organized to enter the plane and extinguish the blaze on the interior.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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