MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.--In order to get their certification to tackle burning airplanes, fire crews must complete an annual training program in which they go through realistic simulations of airplane emergencies involving actual fires.
This week, the NASA Ames Fire Department, along with "mutual aid" departments from nearby Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, went through the program, testing their skills on a mobile trainer called the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) trainer.
In these practice exercises, crews shower the fire with a "fog" of water, rather than a focused stream. This is because in real-life conditions, they'd be using a combination of water and a special foam that blankets the fire. Using a strong stream of water would break the film created by the foam, allowing the fire to break through. But by using a fog of water, they can attack the fire without breaking through that film.
In order to practice putting an interior fire out when there is a high degree of pressure built up inside the plane, crews must maneuver a special truck-top crane arm with a piercing device toward the top of the plane. The idea is to break the surface at one small point and hit the fire with water or foam from the roof.