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AFOA delivers mini conference at Emergency One headquarters in Ayrshire

31 May 2022

AIRPORT FIRE Officers Association (AFOA) members were welcomed to the organisation’s recent mini conference held at Emergency One’s headquarters in Cumnock, Ayrshire by the latter’s managing director Mike Madsen and director Steven Bell, alongside AFOA chair Simon Petts.

A morning of technical sessions was kick-started by Guy Barker, the recently appointed aviation contract manager at the International Fire Training Centre (IFTC) in Darlington (which played host to the last AFOA mini conference). In the light of development plans at Darlington Airport, Barker reiterated the IFTC’s and Serco’s ongoing commitment to training at the venue and outlined its strong order book of UK and international firefighter-centric training.

Simon Petts updated delegates on the welcome news that the Fire Service Long Service and Good Conduct Award has now been extended to cover all airport fire services (a change which has now received Royal Assent). Airport firefighters are now eligible to receive the 20-year long service medal and the 30-year and 40-year clasps. Military service can be included as part of the qualifying time, while breaks in service are allowed. All airport fire services should have now received letters about this.

Delegates were reminded that the award is for both long service and good conduct, and that long service alone does not necessarily justify the award.

Impact of the pandemic

Neil Gray, principal aerodrome inspector at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), gave a comprehensive update. He began by reviewing the impact of the pandemic on flight numbers and incidents. Generally speaking, smaller airports (and internal flights) were much less affected than larger airports and international flights. A full recovery in UK flight numbers is expected during 2022.

Despite the numerous challenges currently facing the industry – among them the drive for greater sustainability, the impact engendered by the Ukraine crisis, rising fuel costs and the reduction in disposable incomes, the International Air Transport Association is still predicting a 44% growth in flight numbers over pre-pandemic levels.

The industry has been badly affected by the pandemic with ongoing issues including difficulties when it comes to the recruitment and retention of required staff, ‘skills fade’ during the pandemic, the expiration of certificates, changes in regulation, the withdrawal of easements, travel disruption and disruptive passengers.

Gray also highlighted several key risk areas for the aviation sector: airborne conflict, the aircraft environment, ground safety, terrain collision, runway incursion and runway excursion. He explored runway incursion, runway excursion and ground safety risks in detail as being core areas of focus for aerodrome risk analysis.

Delegates were reminded that, while the general implementation of Rescue and Firefighting Services easements ceased at the end of March, individual applications can be considered with supporting justifications up until 30 September, at which point they will end completely.

Gray concluded his delivery by reminding conference delegates of the CAA’s 50th Anniversary this year. He also shared extracts from the original 1972 CAP 168 document covering the licensing of aerodromes.

Specialist training

Dr Thomas Budd, lecturer in airport planning and management at Cranfield University, outlined the university’s recent research into Rescue and Firefighting Services’ training for newly hydrogen fuelled aircraft and demonstrated its newly developed VR tool for safe and immersive training for hydrogen fires.

Budd was joined by Jim Nixon, senior lecturer in human factors at Cranfield University. Among some of the key differences they highlighted from existing kerosene-fuelled aircraft were the likely variation in technologies, including hydrogen-powered fuel cells and engines and the fact that fuel will be stored in the fuselage rather than the wings.

Unlike carbonaceous fires, hydrogen fires do not emit smoke or have a visible flame, and nor do they radiate heat, so it’s possible to stand very close to them without ‘feeling’ them. Sensory experiences will be very different for hydrogen fires.

The new training tools can be used on PCs, laptops and smart phones and are free to download from Cranfield University’s website. The university is also developing the training for VR headsets.

In the afternoon, Mike Madsen and Steven Bell of Emergency One hosted delegates on a full tour of their factory including the production lines where the company builds upwards of 240 firefighting vehicles each year. There were also live demonstrations of equipment ranges by Clan Tools and Plant Ltd including Lukas e-draulic, battery-powered cutting tools, Akron Brass nozzles, Vetter lifting bags, BioEx fluorine free ecological firefighting foams and Leader nozzles, cameras, monitors and ventilators.

The Emergency One vehicle range includes light, medium and supertenders, aerial and turntable ladders, Command and Control vehicles and a variety of special vehicles, many of which could be seen in production.

Delegates were also given exclusive access to the E1 EV0 electric vehicle that’s in construction as well as a preview of a new vehicle range expected to be launched to the public at Interschutz 2022.

Delegates were treated to a networking dinner and quiz in the evening, which rounded off a highly successful event.

The next AFOA event is the organisation’s AGM scheduled to take place at The Emergency Services Show, which runs at the NEC in Birmingham on 21-22 September 2022. AFOA is currently exploring the potential to hold its next full-scale conference at Gatwick in October this year.

*Further information is available online at www.afoa.org.uk