Airport fire departments and municipal fire districts that protect or provide mutual aid to airports often have to train in areas and with setups that don’t easily simulate aircraft fire and rescue work. So an Ocala, Florida, company has designed a tool for aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) training that is realistic and portable—an inflatable representation of a large commercial passenger jet aircraft.
Dubbed the Realistic Aircraft Tactical Trainer (RATT), the concept for the tool arose from the need to provide ARFF personnel with the ability to practice effective application and conservation of firefighting agent on a target that’s representative of what they could encounter when faced with an aircraft emergency, says Ross Riddell, director of SCR2, the company that builds RATT. “Our intent in developing the RATT was to create a training tool that gives emergency personnel the opportunity to develop and practice their operational procedures and firefighting tactics at any time and any location, either on or off the airport,” Riddell points out.
The RATT is 85 feet long when inflated, 25 feet high, and has an 80-foot wingspan that’s cut off just past the fuel fill inlets, Riddell says. It’s made of between 700 and 1,200 pounds of inflatable ballistic vinyl and the total RATT system weighs between 9,000 and 12,000 pounds with its trailer and inflation equipment.
Bobby Shaub, the company’s managing director, says the RATT is based on the size of a Boeing 737 aircraft in all dimensions except its overall length. “We had to shorten it to make it compact enough to sit on a 24-foot tandem axle trailer,” he notes.
Shaub says that the RATT can be used in either exterior or interior aircraft scenarios. “Most of the training is simulated fires with the RATT,” he says. “It also has interior access where smoke can be used, as well as heat panels inside for infrared use by fire personnel.”
Riddell adds that the RATT’s integral smoke system allows fire crews to recognize wind direction during simulated fire training and ensure an upwind approach. “The training officer also has the ability to increase or decrease the smoke volume at will to make the scenario more realistic,” he says.
Shaub points out, “Studies have shown that if firefighters don’t use realistic aircraft for training, they often are wasting their agent. With the RATT, firefighters can simulate fuel leaks, engine fires, wheel fires, or burn-throughs, and have the ability to put the RATT anywhere on their airport, or off it, where they want to train.”
Shaub notes that other benefits of the RATT include that it can be deployed and recovered quickly to maximize training time, it’s an environmentally friendly training option, and it allows for greater flexibility in training.
SCR2 has produced the first prototype of the RATT, which is headed to Colorado. “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Denver International Airport will host a training testing session in September, and representatives from other airports will be present to view the demonstration,” Shaub says. “We expect to make any changes the Denver firefighters might suggest after testing and plan to have the RATT available at the annual ARFF Working Group conference October 29 to 31 in Charleston, South Carolina.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.