MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton,California, conducted testing to become certified to operate a Mobile Aircraft Fire Training Device at MCAS Miramar, Feb. 22-24,2016.
The training device is a mock aircraft used by ARFF to conduct live-fire training. It is computer-operated and the different functions are accessed via a centralized panel. The ARFF Marines can control the amount of fire and propane levels in the mock aircraft, from the panel.
“There are multiple locations throughout the device where they can turn the fires on and off from the control panel, burning them as long as they need too,” said Greg Hudson, the MAFTD program manager.
The device can produce fires internally and externally, giving the ARFF Marines the opportunity to train for any type of aircraft fire.
On the first day of training before operating the MAFTD, the ARFF Marines must conduct testing to become qualified to use it.
“First, we went through the classroom portion, a PowerPoint breakdown of everything,” said Lance Cpl. Col Hunsberger, a firefighter with ARFF. “We learn how to set up the MAFTD, from the inside [of it] to the engines on the outside.”
On the second day when the Marines leave the classroom and get hands on with the MAFTD, they first learn to use the control panel of the device, located inside a truck that is at a safe distance from the MAFTD.
The Marines’ first concern is safety. First, they turn the truck on and run safety tests. The Marines test all the fires in the different areas of the trainer and the propane levels. The MAFTD is equipped with automatic shutdowns, which turn the device off if it exceeds an unsafe temperature, according to Hunsberger.
“There are safety systems that we have to check every time before it can be deemed safe to use,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Werth, a firefighter with ARFF and a St. Augustine, Florida, native. “There are Environmental Protection Agency regulations that we have to follow to be able to burn in specific areas and altitudes.”
When the MAFTD is being used for live-fire training, ARFF Marines respond as if an actual aircraft has caught on fire and get into full proper protective equipment and fight the flames, according to Hunsberger.
On the third day of training, the ARFF Marines take a final test. If the Marines pass, they are officially certified to use the MAFTD to conduct training and to operate the device to teach other Marines. Having the certification is necessary for ARFF to continue to conduct this scenario-based training, according to Hudson.
“This training is very important because it is pertinent to our job,” said Hunsberger. “If an aircraft crashes or lands with fire, we need to know what to do.”