Firefighters from Waxahachie and Midlothian are training this week to work safely in and around aircraft at Mid-Way Regional Airport during an emergency.
Airport manager Andy Biery is leading the training.
“I’m sure that you are pretty familiar with the airport by now because you have been out here on several calls in the last year. The facility out here is a little over 300 acres of various areas that support the runway and associated equipment,” Biery told the firefighters Tuesday. “We are going to try to define what goes on at the airport and the things that you should be familiar with as it relates to the airport facilities. I’m going to provide you with information of the different types of airplanes and how they are constructed, where the batteries are at and where they hold fuel.”
Biery said the training is to give first responders a better idea of what to expect when they are responding to an emergency out at the airport.
One of the first items discussed was where to properly stage emergency equipment in a situation where a crash is about to happen on airport grounds. Biery suggested responders check in with the airport staff at the terminal building to get the details on the situation such as the type of aircraft involved and how many people are on board. They would then stage their emergency equipment at a connecting taxiway adjacent to the runway. That would provide first responders the ability to get to the scene of incident faster while providing a safe distance.
Communications were also a part of the training. The different terminology that is used at the airport was explained to firefighters to lessen confusion during an emergency.
The layout of the airport was discussed, with Biery pointing out the different hangers, businesses, the fuel farm, the terminal building, the runway, taxiway and the road leading to and from the airport. The airport has nine hanger buildings containing 90 individual units. The types of hangers and which ones did and did not have a sprinkler system were shown on the map and discussed.
Midlothian Fire Chief David Schrodt said most of this type of training relating to aircraft in terms of their construction and systems relating to fuel and electrical is specialized training given to firefighters who work at airports and something firefighters don’t get at the academy.
“The airport itself has grown in the last few years. Now with the increase of the runway we can have much larger aircraft landing and taking off out here. This training provides up to date information about the airport and gives us information that many of us have not gotten before or it has been quite a while since we were exposed to it,” Schrodt said.
After the classroom training, the firefighters toured the airport and were shown different types of aircraft that operate there. Firefighters were shown access points on the fuselages and told if they had to cut into an aircraft there would be markings showing areas free of electrical or hydraulic lines.
Aircraft at the airport use either aviation gasoline, which powers piston engine aircraft, or jet fuel, which powers turbo props or jets. Fuel types were discussed so firefighters understood the characteristics and volatility of each.
Biery said a typical fuel load is from five to eight hours. Aircraft can have the fuel tanks mounted inside the wing and have as many eight different tanks. Firefighters were allowed to go inside a cockpit and were shown where different cutoff switches for the fuel system and the electrical system were located at. He cautioned the class to be aware of propellers and never approach an engine that is running.
“One of our pump engineers suggested that we have a class like this because of the several crashes that have happened over the last few years. He thought it would be good to have a more in-depth class on aircraft construction,” Waxahachie Fire Department Battalion Chief John Rodgers said, saying that knowing where switches to cut an aircraft’s fuel supply or battery power are and where the fuel is located is important because it keeps everyone safe.
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