Belgrade airport firefighters in profile

Published:  08 June, 2017

When the firefighters at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia receive an incident notification from air traffic control, they must get to their vehicles, don their PPE and be ready to leave their base in no more than 20 seconds, reports Petar Vojinovic Editor-in-Chief of Tango 6.

Stanislav Tahirović is the commander of the airport’s fire and rescue service, and he explains that the life of his firefighters is planned to the last detail to enable swift response.

‘When it comes to an actual intervention, everything is timed down to the last second,’ he says. ‘There are two types of possible intervention we face – announced and unannounced.’

If the incident is announced, this means something has happened to the aircraft prior to landing. The firefighters gather at position Bravo One, collect information about the incident and plan their response based on the location and direction of the aircraft coming into land.

If the incident is unannounced, something has happened to the aircraft on take-off or landing. Not only must the firefighters leave the base within 20 seconds, but the fire trucks must arrive at the furthest end of the runway in less than three minutes.

‘We can realistically reach the furthest end of the runway at Belgrade airport in less than two minutes,’ says Tahirović.

Within that time, the first vehicle will have already dropped 50% of its fire suppression agent on the plane or other objects.’

He says that his team is trained for all possible scenarios, and they need to be. ‘No two interventions are ever the same. There are so many variables, from weather conditions and wind direction to the placement of the vehicle or aircraft. All these factors will affect how the intervention unfolds and the unit commander must evaluate them all in a very short space of time to decide on their operational approach.’

The firefighters at Nikola Tesla Airport undertake both theoretical and practical training to prepare for incidents. ‘From a theoretical perspective, we evaluate all possible tactical situations and study different types of passenger planes. On the practical front, we conduct the exercise on our training grounds.’

Each aircraft is different, from its size to the sub-type. Tahirović explains that the firefighters must be familiar with every possible aircraft type so they know how each can be accessed and the best approach to take when fighting a fire on any given type of plane.

‘We know almost everything about all types of aeroplanes landing at our airport. For example, we know the difference between Boeing 737 series 500 and 900. Their emergency exits are not the same. The mechanism that secures slides on Airbus and Boeing is not the same, and so on.

‘In the event of an incident, air traffic control will give us all the relevant additional information, such as the number of passengers, number of crew members, the amount of fuel according to the flight plan, and any hazardous substances that are known to be onboard.’

Slobodan Đurđević is the manager of the airport’s fire and rescue service. He believes that his crew is one of the best equipped in the region.

’Our service has developed alongside the airport. In addition to our other equipment, we have recently purchased a Rosenbauer Panther 8x8, which we selected after a comparison of several vehicles to meet our specific needs. We have also just completed the procurement procedure for a further vehicle of the same type that will arrive at the end of December. With it, we have raised our capacity to the eighth and ninth protection category.’

The Panther has a 15,500-litre water capacity, a 1,900-litre foam capacity and is manned by a crew of five firefighters and a driver. It can reach the furthest end of the runway in less than three minutes.

‘We have tested it,’ says Đurđević, ‘and it arrives in one minute and 30 seconds.’

In addition to the new vehicles, the fire and rescue service will also soon move into a brand new building. Construction of a new firefighting station starts this year and will occupy 6,500sqm, of which 5,330sqm will be storage. There will be new garages for vehicles, new premises for the crew, and greater storage for service equipment. The emergency control centre will also be located in the new building.

‘It is a significant investment, and our aim is to create a regional training centre in the new station. The idea is that we lease our equipment, as well as specific services, such as the equipment used for removing an aircraft from the runway during an incident, as we are one of the few airports in the region to have this kind of kit.’

So far, the crew has had to respond to two incidents within their response area, which extends to 8km from the base, one of which involved an intervention on a Lufthansa aircraft. Both were managed without major problems or injuries, says Đurđević.

  • Operation Florian

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