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Aircraft disasters

Calgary International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the country and is served by two fire stations staffed by trained crash rescue specialists.

These fire crews attend to a variety of calls on and off airport property, but are primarily the first responders for aircraft emergency standbys and other airport-related support services and medical calls.

Due to the inherent dangers associated with jet fuel, firefighters are also required to attend and inspect any construction or repair activities on airport property that involve open flame, sparks or hazardous materials.

Aircraft firefighting equipment includes four specialized crash apparatus with off-road capability and turrets that can spray water, foam or dry chemical onto an aircraft to help provide a safe exit for passengers and crew involved in an emergency. An auxiliary unit is equipped to respond to all medical calls at the airport terminal or parking structure.

Specialized training

Aircraft firefighting is a specialized area and the teams stationed at the airport undergo specific training and certification to prepare for all types of aviation-related incidents. These can include blown aircraft tires, fuel spills, engine fires and any other mechanical difficulties an aircraft might experience while on the ground or in the air.

The crash rescue specialists study specifications on all aircraft models, including engines, interior configurations and materials, entrance and egress points and brake systems. Crews are trained in-house by CFD Field Trainers and use the mock-up facility on airport property to practice live-fire exercises as well as simulating attacks on an actual aircraft fuselage.

Training exercises

Calgarians may notice black plumes of smoke towering over the airport. During training, firefighters ignite a contained pool of jet fuel bio-mix to simulate the aftermath of an airplane crash. These regular exercises are arranged in advance with Alberta Environment, Transport Canada and the Calgary Airport Authority.

Fire crews also participate in multi-agency disaster preparation exercises to ensure readiness for all manner of aviation incidents.