IT looks like a tank, handles like a truck and can even be operated by remote control – and it’s being hailed as the future of airport firefighting.
The £500,000 state-of-the-art fire engine which has been secured by Edinburgh Airport is so advanced, crews can even tackle incidents without having to leave the cab.
The “Panther” was purchased to replace an obselete vehicle and was manufactured by Austrian firm Rosenbauer, which also manufactures appliances to combat nuclear fires.
Fire station service manager Frank Roy said: “This is a huge commitment from the airport – the Panther appliance is very much one of the best in the world.
“It has the ability to increase safety for the crews as they are now able to fight fires from within the cab, and this reduces the risk of firefighters having problems with their breathing.”
The appliance, which was custom made for the airport, has a top speed of around 75mph and features hoses on the roof and front of the vehicle which can be operated from the cab, with cameras allowing the crew to see exactly where they are aiming.
The Panther – which can release foam from the undercarriage to tackle flames on the ground – can also be programmed remotely from a computer at the fire station office. The engine can be switched on, along with everything else the crew needs, by the press of a button and the appliance also features lights on the outside alerting firefighters as to how much foam and powder they have left.
Mr Roy said: “When aircraft incidents take place they can involve huge amounts of fuel and different types of material – it’s quite a different type of firefighting technique compared to industrial and building fires.
“The last fatality at Edinburgh Airport was quite a few years ago, but in the last month there have been three or four incidents of different levels relating to aircraft.”
The search for the replacement vehicle was initiated by the airport’s former owner BAA, and was continued by new operator Global Infrastructure Partners.
Now that the new Panther has been secured, it looks likely that the fire service will acquire a further two appliances.
Almond councillor Lindsay Paterson said: “In terms of safety for passengers, the crew and the airport, whatever advanced technology they can bring would be welcome, providing they have the funds in their budget for it.”
In November last year, two “Carps” airport fire engines worth £900,000 were relegated to use as training vehicles after having been plagued by technical faults.
The vehicles were designed to do the job of a conventional fire engine and a height appliance vehicle in one, but proved too heavy and were banned after one went “up on two wheels” round a corner.