AFOA ends 2021 with successful aviation fire safety conference

MEMBERS of the Airport Fire Officers Association (AFOA) were recently welcomed to the organization’s mini conference held at the International Fire Training Center at Tees Valley Airport in Darlington. During the day, delegates enjoyed a busy schedule of presentations covering a variety of topics related to aviation fires and rescue, but with particular emphasis on training and broader updates from the aviation industry. ‘industry.

Matt Bourner, Oversight Manager for Manchester Airport’s Rescue and Firefighting Service, started the day with an inspiring presentation on his own recovery from a motorcycle accident to become the UK’s first amputee firefighter in the UK service firefighting and rescue service and the fourth amputee firefighter serving in the UK Fire and Rescue Services.

Bourner gave a very open and honest account of his long and arduous return from an injury to normal life and operational duties. Clearly a very determined person, he stressed the importance of overall fitness, a positive attitude and goal setting.

To his credit, Bourner is an amputee counselor for the Limbless Association. Indeed, AFOA has donated £ 500 to this worthy charity.

Landscape of resilience

Gregor Lindsay, Head of Learning and Development at Emergency Planning College, then gave a presentation on “UK Resilience: The Evolving Landscape”. Historically, resilience has focused heavily on protecting people, property and assets, but the government is now looking at organizational resilience and the economy at large more broadly, making resilience an intrinsic part of national security. and incorporating greater interoperability.

Resilience planning is currently driven by a desire to better understand risks and ensure better preparedness through exercises. There is a recognition of the role played by the private sector and a greater focus on teams, people and skills enhancement.

The national risk register is updated continuously, rather than every two years, while the National Situation Center, itself created to fight the pandemic, is now operational. There is also a willingness to better understand the interdependence and to ensure that it is possible to deal with multiple issues at the same time.

Paul McDonald (CEO) and Joseph Gallagher (Director of Operations and Development) from Camor Ltd then presented the topic “Integration and Communication for a Multi-Agency Environment”. Emphasizing the need for greater use of interoperable training exercises, McDonald referred to a security incident that occurred at Edinburgh Airport in 2014 to highlight practical and communication-oriented issues. and how emergency service teams were able to work together.

For his part, Gallagher referred to an incident at Glasgow Airport in 1999, when a Cessna plane crashed after take-off, in order to highlight the many communication problems one can expect. .

Visit of the establishment

Taking a break from the presentations for a while, delegates had the choice of touring the comprehensive fire field facilities of the International Fire Training Center and the virtual reality suite.

The fire field features over 25 training simulators with multiple ARFF vehicles and different aircraft, ranging from an A380 CAT 10 simulation platform, a full Trident aircraft and a 747 CAT 9 simulation platform up to military and civilian helicopters and a Tornado aircraft.

The state-of-the-art virtual reality suite provides the ability to face a realistic emergency in a safe classroom environment. Students can generate their own emergency scenarios in great detail by controlling factors such as weather conditions, building types, traffic and incident details.

Driver training

Steve Milton, general manager of emergency response driver training, began the afternoon session at the conference by reviewing the complex section 19 requirements for emergency vehicle driver training during interventions on the city side. These requirements are expected to come into effect in May 2022.

Delegates were guided through the complexities of possible exemptions and training requirements for blue light, high speed and high speed driving. Driving Class 2 (light) vehicles on blue lights will require 120 hours of training, while Class 4 (heavy) vehicles will require 80 hours of instruction.

Chris Thain, Director of Business Development at G3 Systems, then gave an insightful presentation on combat zone firefighter training, looking specifically at G3’s work in supporting airfields in Afghanistan prior to the withdrawal of US forces. This job involved a number of logistical and cultural challenges, including language barriers and the rapid “fading” of skills.

Gary Watson, of the International Fire Training Center, offered a refreshing look at “team dynamics” in a session accredited by Continuing Professional Development. He highlighted four types of key characters that we can all be divided into. Recognizing our own personalities and that of our colleagues can be the key to building successful working relationships, it seems, in large part by recognizing our different strengths and needs.

Dr Thomas Budd, Senior Lecturer in Airport Planning and Management at Cranfield University, described work in the area of ​​RFFS hydrogen aircraft response training, in particular the use of tools of “virtual reality” training for an immersive, safe and secure environment. These new training tools will be free to download on any device, including PCs, laptops and smartphones from March 2022.

AFOA members and those of the ARFF community are encouraged to visit where they can download the “Hydrogen Safety in Aviation” brochure. AFOA plans to host a feedback session on this training at its next mini-conference in 2022.

Industry update

Neil Gray of the Civil Aviation Authority ended the day with an industry update. Topics covered included post-Brexit aviation rule changes (to be made by the Department of Transport) and changes to the ‘Red Diesel’ discount fuel (the use of aerodrome vehicles is highly unlikely. to be legal from April 1, 2022).

Gray also explored future flight challenges projects (including sustainable aviation fuels, electric, hybrid and hydrogen aircraft, vertipods and also urban air mobility) and their likely implications for ARFFs.

At the end of the work, a charity raffle raised £ 376 for the firefighters’ charity.

AFOA’s next mini-conference is expected to take place at the end of the first quarter of 2022. Details will be confirmed in due course. AFOA’s AGM is expected to take place at next year’s edition of the Emergency Services Show at the NEC in Birmingham. AFOA’s next large-scale annual conference is scheduled for February 2023.

* More information on AFOA’s work is available online at

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