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Aircraft

 



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Overview
A passenger jet has crashed. Flames shoot into the air. Dozens of people are trapped inside. How can firefighters rescue anyone in a raging inferno like that? It takes skilled professionals with special training. That's why men and women from around the country come to the new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Facility in Duluth, Minnesota. There, they practice rescue techniques in a state-of-the-art airplane crash simulator designed to replicate a Boeing 757 jet. Nearly a hundred computer-controlled nozzles in and around the simulator shoot propane gas flames. When that happens, the firefighters pump foam onto the fire. But since this is a simulator, the foam doesn't actually put the fire out - the computer turns off some of the nozzles instead. When the fire outside is under control, firefighters cut their way through replaceable panels and into the jet's cabin. Smoke is everywhere, so they may wear goggles equipped with IRIS (infrared imaging system). In the simulation, however, the smoke isn't real. It's hydraulic fluid that has been heated to 427oC and blown out nozzles. If trainees don't put out the fire in two and a half minutes or less, they fail the test. That may sound like a tough challenge but if a real jet crashes and the interior begins to burn, firefighters would only have about two minutes to rescue the passengers. (Fortunately, passengers can survive most jet crashes if they follow evacuation directions given on board.) Every effort is made to see that nothing gets hurt during training - not the firefighters, not the environment. For example, in a real crash, firefighters would use aqueous film forming foam (AFFF). The chemicals in AFFF mix with water and are fluffed up into a foam, but they won't mix with the fuel in a jet crash fire. This means the water can float on top of the fuel and smother the fire. AFFF creates a seal around the firefighters' boots as they try to rescue the passengers. If the foam didn't do this, the fire could flash back and endanger the rescuers as well as those being rescued. The foam used during the simulation, however, is biodegradable dish washing soap. Once it is sprayed, it slides into a pit under the simulator where it is treated and released into the regular water treatment facility.

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