Articulating Boom Aerials Offer Tactical Flexibility

A Rosenbauer T-Rex articulating boom platform operates its master stream.
A Rosenbauer T-Rex articulating boom platform operates its master stream.
Firefighters with the Columbia ( Mo.) Fire Department deploy their Snozzle to soak the roof and upper floor of a three-story fire building.
Firefighters with the Columbia ( Mo.) Fire Department deploy their Snozzle to soak the roof and upper floor of a three-story fire building.

Articulating boom aerials have been in use in the United States for several decades, and they continue to offer a different type of flexibility not available in straight stick aerials or ladder platforms.

Often, getting around obstacles can be a problems for standard ladder or platform aerials where trees, power lines or intervening structures hamper efforts to get to a fire building. That’s where articulating boom manufacturers say their products prove their mettle.

Grady North, vice president of business development and strategy for Crash Rescue Equipment Service, Inc. in Dallas, Texas, said the biggest development in articulating booms has been the increasing use of electronics to control many of the aerial’s functions.

“Most of our articulating boom vehicles work on the CAN-bus system and have microprocessor controllers for the hydraulic systems,” North said. “Electronic controls are the big thing right now.”

Crash Rescue makes seven variations of the Snozzle, a three-segment articulating boom aerial: the P50 and HSI, 50-foot and 65-foot single nozzle models; the HS2 65-foot dual nozzle variant; single and dual nozzle versions for aircraft rescue and fire; and two versions designed for industrial applications.

The articulating portion of a Snozzle is made up of two booms connected by a knuckle joint, with a telescoping section being placed at the end of the second boom.

Combining the telescoping part of the aerial with the articulating sections “gives the vehicle an unprecedented range of motion,” said North, “allowing you to reach up and over a tree line and then back down to the front door of a building. A straight stick boom could never make that maneuver.”

Two Main Advantages

He said the combination of the two types of booms allows an articulating boom vehicle to put its tip down onto the ground in narrow alleyways, after having gone up and over power lines. Further, the Snozzle units can reach 15 feet below grade level on the side of the truck, North said, useful for rescues or in an instance where a car fire could be attacked from an overpass.

Todd McBride, apparatus specialist for Rosenbauer in Lyons, S.D., agreed the two main advantages to operating an articulating boom platform over a standard platform are its ability to go up and over obstacles and to operate below grade, such as off the edge of a cliff or the side of a bridge.

Rosenbauer builds the T-Rex 114-foot articulating boom platform that is composed of three square, tubular telescoping booms that extend 100 feet and a platform mounted on a 14-foot jib boom. The tip load is 1,250 pounds.

“With the articulating platform, because the bucket sits in the middle of the truck and the booms sit over the bucket, we’re able to have bucket access from the ground when in the stowed position, which is beneficial for rapid deployment,” McBride said. “And because the platform can pivot 48 degrees to each side, it can be squared up to a balcony or other part of a building if necessary.”

Control of the articulating boom can be accomplished either from the basket or the operator’s platform on the truck’s body. Cameras can be mounted at the tip as an option.

McBride noted that while many departments “look at an articulating platform as having a ‘wow’ factor for them, most love the units because of their maneuverability.”

He said Rosenbauer is concentrating its T-Rex articulating boom technology in the 114-foot length on quints with 2,000-gpm pumps and 300-gallon tanks, as well as on standard truck bodies with no pump or tank.

The T-Rex can be fitted with a 1,500-gpm nozzle at the tip, supplied by a waterway that runs up the side of the booms to prevent inadvertent damage from being compressed down onto something solid. The basket is fitted with a 2-1/2-inch outlet at the tip so a hand line can be extended from the platform if needed. There’s also a compartment up there to store 50 feet of hose.

“That discharge is good for a HVAC fire or where the only access the firefighters have is through a window,” McBride pointed out. “Plus, you can run the monitor and the hand line at the same time.”

The T-Rex uses envelope control, what Rosenbauer calls Smart Aerial Technology. McBride said the technology allows the truck’s jacks to be extended as far as possible – even if they are short jacked – and the system compensates by allowing operation that limits the side reach of the boom and basket. Smart Aerial Technology is used on all the T-Rex vehicles Rosenbauer builds.

The lengthy extension cylinders on the jacks allow the T-Rex to be set up on severe grades and still have the truck level itself out, according to McBride.

Rosenbauer incorporates a target control system into the vehicle which can track and mimic repetitive motions. For instance, the system can memorize going up and over an obstacle, then over to point A, picking up people, returning by the route first traveled and setting them down on the ground at point B. With a simple movement of the joystick, the operator can get the unit to mimic that sequence of motions time and again, automatically.

The T-Rex also has platform collision protection that uses ultrasonic sensors around the platform that stop the unit when it gets close to something solid and then allows the platform to be moved in more slowly, a feature especially handy at night. In addition, the unit features an auto-stow capability where the touch of a single button puts the platform into its stow position.

Tim Smits, national sales manager for Pierce Manufacturing Inc. in Appleton, Wis., said Pierce has been producing its SkyArm articulating platform for 20 years.

“This is a true articulating platform device where the last 15 feet 6 inches articulates,” Smits noted. “The fly section is independent and can be extended either up or down. It’s a true egress ladder.”

Smits pointed out the SkyArm has up and over reach capabilities, for instance, to get up and over wires or parapets, and also to the backside of a structure’s roof for ventilation.

North of Crash Rescue said his company’s Snozzle comes in configurations that mount either single or dual nozzles on the business end of the unit. On single-nozzle version of Snozzles made for the municipal firefighting market, the maximum flow is 1,250 gpm. With the dual nozzle version, the maximum flow of both nozzles is 1,500 gpm, usually 500 gpm at the tip of the 65-foot Snozzle and 1,000 gpm around the 50-foot elevation level.

“The dual nozzle version allows you to attack a fire with one nozzle while you protect exposures with the other one,” North said, “or you can use both nozzles for attack. They allow a lot of flexibility for the fire department.”

The Snozzle also offers camera systems at the tip of the unit to aid the operator in seeing where the water stream is going and also to serve as a search tool in a rescue situation. Crash Rescue also offers an infrared camera that shows temperatures in color on the operator’s control screen.

“I think you’ll see more camera systems on aerial units,” North said, “and one of the areas for improvements is getting the signals to the monitor in improved picture quality.”

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