Mobile Training Device Keeps Firefighters Ready

Story Number: NNS141114-05Release Date: 11/14/2014 9:52:00 AM
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By Donna Cipolloni, Naval Air Station Patuxent River Public Affairs

PATUXENT, Md. (NNS) -- The Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Training Device, or MAFTD, is a steel mockup enabling firefighters from Naval District Washington/Naval Air Station Patuxent River Fire and Emergency Services to realistically simulate an aircraft fire for training purposes.

"The MAFTD is built to mimic a number of different aircraft in one efficient package," said Pax River firefighter, Capt. John Trossbach, lead instructor for the training device in the Naval District Washington (NDW) region. "For engine fires, there's a low-wing side simulating fighter jets and smaller aircraft, and a high-wing side for larger aircraft such as C-130s."

Other simulated exterior fires include the fuselage, auxiliary power unit, wheel/brake, fuel spills or a tail engine fire -even though there aren't many aircraft at Pax River that have tail engines.

"Since we run mutual aid to St. Mary's County in the event of a plane crash, we need to train for everything," Trossbach added.

Fire Capt. Joseph Miedzinski participated in the training and even with 32 years of experience, still finds the exercise beneficial.

"Being as we do not have many aircraft fire incidents, the MAFTD training allows us to maintain our firefighting skills," he said. "It lets us [experience] real fire scenarios in a controlled environment."
During a recent training event using the MAFTD, Miedzinski and his training partner fought outside aircraft fuselage and engine fires, and then moved on to interior cockpit, galley, cabin and cargo fires.
"We also gain training in attack hose line deployment and nozzle operation, as well as pumper and water supply operations," he noted.

All fire scenarios are triggered and monitored from the "command box," located inside a large semi-truck cab that also hauls the portable device throughout the region for training at other bases.

"The command box houses the main control panel and switches, and the fires are fueled by two large 250-gallon propane tanks onboard," Trossbach said. "There are cameras, so we can watch the live action; video recording, so we can play it back later for evaluation; and a nitrogen-fed smoke line, so we can add smoke in a search and rescue scenario."

Trossbach explained that two operators are required during training - one in the command box, and one outside next to the fire crews. For safety purposes, either operator can shut down the prop at any time. The MAFTD is also equipped with three emergency stops so the crews themselves can shut it down, as well as gas and heat detectors that prompt an automatic shutdown if unsafe levels are detected.

"In addition to fire department apparatus, an ambulance must be on standby as well," Trossbach said. "That's the standard for live-fire training, and this is considered live-fire training."

Nine fire department members are certified to operate and maintain the MAFTD and every three years, recertification is required. Much of the upkeep to the device is done in-house.

"It's an electronic and mechanical device with a lot of moving parts behind metal panels," Trossbach said. "We've been able to avoid downtime by having guys trained to handle a lot of the repairs."

Pax River's firefighters participate in required MAFTD live-fire training at least twice per year.

"Aircraft fires are a serious situation because of an aircraft's moving parts, special metals, composite materials - and the fuels burn hotter," Trossbach said. "They can hurt you quicker than a building fire can. We train together and work together so in the event something happens, we're ready to go."

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