Today’s aviation safety standards are a far cry from what the Wright Brothers deployed on their first flight over the sand dunes of North Carolina in 1903. Enclosed, pressurized cockpits, advanced aviation controls, jet engines, onboard extinguishing systems; all have contributed to the safety and comfort of today’s air fight. However, even with all the advancements over the last 100 years, accidents still occur, and people still are injured or worse—killed. One of the most terrifying dangers of all air travel is that of the possibility of fire. Whether it be from an electrical source hidden somewhere deep inside the plane or the result of a crash of the aircraft, fire is of great concern to all involved—both inside and outside the aircraft.
One recent champion to aid in the extinguishment of such hazard has slowly risen to combat such challenge. It is call HRET, which is an abbreviation for High-Reach Extendable Turret. Over the past decade, approximately 400 HRET systems, have been retrofitted into existing (ARFF) Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting vehicles or purchased with new ARFF vehicles worldwide.
Some advantages and benefits of this technology include increased throw range performance, increased range of turret motion, more efficient agent application by applying agent at the seat of the fire, faster extinguishment of fuel fires, and the ability to penetrate inside an aircraft and extinguish the fire. This added capability can increase passenger survivability, protect property, and extinguish fire faster during an aircraft post-crash incident.
The STINGER, developed by a company called Rosenbauer and deployed on our very own ARRF apparatus at LAX is a HRET (High Reach Extendable Turret). It allows fast, precise positioning and impresses with its excellent extinguishing performance. The combined areas of movement of the water tower, the turret, and the completely new type of “Piercing Tools” cover all necessary attack positions.
• The HRET can rotate through a total of 60° (30° left and right)
• At the push of a button, three preset positions can be initiated automatically and quickly
• Intermediate positions can be easily reached by releasing the button
• With the STOW button the STINGER automatically returns to the bedded position
The Rosenbauer RM65 turret design allows for a turret output of up to 1000 gallons/min possible in the pump and roll position with a throw range of approximately 295 ft. In every raised position – up to 54 ft high – 1003 gallons/min can be output and achieve throw ranges up to 278 ft. The turret nozzles of the RM65 have, both vertically as well as horizontally, a total rotation range of 180° and permit continuous adjustment of the stream patterns from solid jet to spray jet. The Rosenbauer turret also has a ChemCore option that enables the centralized output of up to 22 lbs. of dry powder. The powder which is included in the water stream then reaches a larger throw range.
The Rosenbauer Piercing Tool brings water/foam/Halotron to where it is needed. It has its own drive and firing mechanism and is hydraulically positioned and moved forward. This allows for exact positioning at any angle. The vertical rotation area covers 180° in total and allows for precise placement of the piercing tip with the aid of a docking sensor. The piercing spray impresses with its lightness thanks to composite material, the same material used in the newest types of airplanes. The standard piercing tip has an extinguishing output of approximately 250 gallons/min. The piercing tip developed by the LAFD and used on the current ARFF vehicles has an output of 75 gallons/min.
Lastly, the joystick for the STINGER can also control the movements of the boom, RM65 turret, and piercing tool. Buttons for the control of pre-programmed positions and activation of the piercing tools are arranged separately for safety reasons. The current operating conditions (discharge of water or water-foam mixture and the extinguishing agent tank contents) are shown on the central display.
Certification to use this highly advanced piece of equipment takes time and training and is one of the last steps in obtaining one’s ARFF certification. It all starts with work on a simulator allowing for real time training to tune the skill operator while providing a very cost-effective training solution. The simulation is installed on a laptop with a high-resolution screen and operated with original operating controls of the STINGER. The simulator allows settings in real environmental conditions such as driver’s position left/right, speed display in mph, weather conditions, and lighting conditions such as day or night. The simulation also allows different perspectives ranging from the point of view of the driver, co-driver position, side view or top view. Actual foam conditions during discharging operation are also realistically shown during the training session.
Aircraft Firefighting is a very unique skill set learned by a very small percentage of Los Angeles City Firefighters. Those who have chosen the position on an ARFF company understand the seriousness of their assignment and know that when it comes to an aircraft incident, every second literally counts. With equipment such as the HRET, not only has the chance of survival of an aircraft incursion increased, but also the safety of the personnel exercising such rescue.
By John Hicks
Source material: Rosenbauer HRET Manual