Airport gets £1.3m fire training rig

Members of the Airport Fire Service put in some practice with the training rig. Picture: Greg Macvean
Members of the Airport Fire Service put in some practice with the training rig. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The sight of a plane fuselage engulfed in flames by the side of a runway would be enough to make even the most seasoned traveller nervous.

But despite its appearance, a towering inferno at Edinburgh Airport is actually set to make passengers safer.

A Fire Training Centre unveiled today will help keep the airport’s fire crew in top form to deal with emergencies, with firefighters from around the UK and the world set to train at the world-class facility.

The 40-metre long, nine-metre high training rig is laced with jets that shoot liquid petroleum gas flames, controlled remotely by fire officers. Because of the intense heat generated from the flames, the rig is continuously doused with water during drills. Even then, the structure will only take ten to 15 years’ punishment.

The rig includes a replica cargo deck, cockpit and cabin, complete with seats and overhead bins. The cabin can be artificially ‘smoked’ to replicate fire conditions, requiring rescuers to search the plane to save 15-stone model ‘passengers’.

The £1.3 million facility was required because new international routes from Edinburgh involve Boeing Dreamliner and 777 aircraft carrying up to 451 passengers regularly taking off and landing. Civil Aviation Authority rules mean training rigs must reproduce conditions on the largest planes passing through on a regular basis. As a result, Edinburgh’s facility is the largest in Scotland.

The Airport Fire Service has to respond to calls within three minutes to stop potential airplane fires from taking hold.

Station manager Frank Roy said: “If a fire reaches the fuselage where passengers are, it becomes a very dangerous situation.”

Unveiling the facility today, Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This new equipment will allow staff to receive the highest standard of safety training when it comes to dealing with the increasing number of larger aircraft using the terminal and growing passenger numbers.

“I commend Edinburgh Airport for making this significant investment in safety and hope it continues to build on its success.”

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “With more passengers and aircraft using our airport than ever before, it’s imperative we continue investing in our facilities to maintain our excellent safety record.”