The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting (ARFF) Research Program has been studying the feasibility and demand of a new concept vehicle called an Interior Access Vehicle (IAV) for rapid access to aircraft doorways for the ARFF industry. The primary function of this new concept IAV is to aid fire fighters in making a safe and rapid entry into an aircraft fuselage, as well as assist in the egress of passengers, while adding a fire fighting capability.
Between September 1997 and June 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated 46 emergency evacuations and found that an emergency evacuation was occurring every 11 days on average. Evacuation slides on aircraft can fail to deploy or be rendered useless by wind, fire or orientation of the aircraft. There are several circumstances where airport fire fighters could intervene and assist during emergency evacuations, especially when a fire is involved which can be dangerous to both the passengers and first responders. Another NTSB study on aircraft evacuations showed that firefighters were often required to simultaneously extinguished aircraft fires while assist evacuating passengers. Fire fighters only have minutes to respond to an aircraft fire before the fuselage is compromised and the passengers are overcome by smoke and heat. Passengers that survive the dynamics of a crash are typically victims of post crash fire, inhalations of super heated toxic gases or smoke, or are unable to self evacuate. The FAA Fire Safety Research Branch states approximately 25%, or 288 of the 1153 fatalities on U.S. transport airlines between 1981-1990 were caused by fire. Of the 288 fatalities, 40% can be attributed to smoke and toxic combustion products of burning cabin materials and jet fuel.
How effective can an IAV be in assisting emergency passenger evacuations? The FAA ARFF Research Program has been researching just that. Using the FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute evacuation simulation programs, the ARFF Research Program studied how making closed exits available again using an IAV could improve evacuation times, once emergency passenger evacuation had begun. Results show during a total evacuation, an IAV could significantly impact evacuation times, especially in double aisle aircraft.
Today’s aircraft come in a wide range of aircraft shapes, sizes, heights, and passenger loads, increasing the requirement for a flexible operational platform. Traditional ladder methods and structural ladder and sky lift vehicles have shortcomings operating in an airport environment near aircraft. Some innovative airport fire departments have taken the initiative to acquire specialized custom vehicles for ARFF operations such as mobile air stairs and scissor lift vehicles. While this type of equipment will work in certain situations, it is still of limited benefit responding to larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 with a second level occupancy. Current passenger evacuation platforms have little or no fire extinguishing capabilities. Some airport fire departments have plumbed a dry standpipe system and attached hose reels into their air stair vehicles, which allows for interior fire suppression inside the aircraft, but is still limited by its need to be supplied water by another piece of fire apparatus.
The FAA ARFF Research Program is seeking recommendations on the design of a platform vehicle that would be considered a dedicated ARFF vehicle and meet the primary functions of aiding fire fighters in making a safe and rapid entry into an aircraft fuselage, assist in the egress of passengers, while having a self-contained fire extinguishing component. The National Fire Protection Association has recognized the need of such a vehicle in their newest 414 Standard for ARFF Vehicles, 2007 Ed. titled Interior Access Vehicle. The FAA is interested in gathering ideas, comments, and suggestions from fire departments, industry, aircraft manufacturers, government agencies, and ARFF personnel. This information will be used to determine design, operational, and performance criteria for such a vehicle, as well as lead to development of a full scale fire test evaluation using the new FAA double deck aircraft mockup at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. We thank you for your assistance!
Please submit all suggestions, comments, or responses in writing to:
Mr. Nick Subbotin
FAA Technical Center
ARFF Research Program
ANG-E261, Bldg. 296
Atlantic City International Airport
New Jersey, 08405
Contact Project Lead: Nick Subbotin
Last Update: 02/22/12