Air travel is considered the safest mode of transport and the existence of a Rescue and Fire Fighting Service (RFFS) at airports is critical to the aviation industry. Airports represent a special risk area requiring a specialized equipment and well-trained Rescue and Fire Fighting Service. The operations of the RFFS at all Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) operated airports are regulated by International Civil Aviation Organization (Annex 14) and Airport Service Manual Part 1 & 7).
The basic functions of the RFFS among others are to safeguard human lives in the event of aircraft accidents and incidents and property from fire outbreaks at the airport and its immediate vicinity, conduct aerodrome and fire safety inspections on airport installation, carry out disable aircraft recovery operations on or off the runway and emergency management.
The Rescue and Fire Fighting Service Training Centre at Kotoka International Airport has grown from taking care of the training needs of its staff to that of other institutions in Ghana and other countries in Central and Western Africa, thereby earning revenue for the company.
The training programmes have been designed to meet national and international needs and conform to International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) standard and recommended practices.
The Rescue and Fire Fighting Service Training School provides training in the following areas:
• Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting
• Fire protection and emergency management for both civil and military personnel
• Industrial Fire Safety
• Disable Aircraft Recovery Training
Participants are given first- hand training experience in handling emergencies using advanced fire training simulators.
Class size is kept small to ensure personalized attention and safety at all times during the training.
The instructors are all practicing firefighting and rescue professionals. For most of the training programmes, hands on, true-to-life simulated exercises make up over 70% of the training.
A comprehensive range of fire simulators is designed to fully train and test firefighting and safety skills of participants. The simulators are maintained at a dedicated fire training ground where participants undergo true-to-life simulated exercises involving undercarriage fires, internal cabin fires, aircraft engine fires, smoke-filled chambers, pressure-fed fuel fires, heat filled chambers and flash over fires.
The training programmes are designed for personnel of Airport Authorities, Airline crew, Civil Defence Organizations, Aircraft Ground Engineers, National Fire Service, Petrochemical Industries, Hotels, Restaurants, Mining Industries and Financial Institutions among others.
From industries in Ghana, the school has trained fire personnel from Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Volta River Authority (VRA), Tarkwa Gold Mines, Anglogold Ashanti, the Ghana Airforce, Bank of Ghana among others.
It has also offered training to personnel from African countries such as Malawi, Sierra Leone, Benin, Liberia, Cote D’ivoire and presently has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with one of the biggest fire schools in Africa, ERSI in Douala, Cameroon.
Aircraft Recovery Services at KIA
Since the acquisition of an Aircraft Recovery Equipment at KIA, the Aircraft Recovery Team of the Rescue Fire Fighting Service (GACL – RFFS) has successfully conducted nine aircraft recovery operations of various aircraft types ranging from a Saab 340A to a Boeing 747-200 series, much to the admiration of the International community.
An aircraft recovery system is a set of equipment which enables civil or military personnel faced with an on or off runway incident to move a disabled aircraft quickly, safely and without secondary damage to a safe area thereby permitting a rapid return to normal operation at the airport. It includes the inflation system comprising of centralized air control module, remote control consoles, air distributors, air hoses, air lifting bags, and movement system made up of movement sledges, slings, shackles and turntable head.
GACL recently signed an MOU with the Abidjan Airport Authority (AERIA) to provide aircraft recovery services in the event of any incident at Abidjan Airport.
The Aircraft Recovery system gives the well– trained and certified personnel of GACL the capability of lifting any aircraft up to a Boeing 747-400.
The Aircraft Recovery team experienced its first international assignment in June 2004. The team travelled to Benin International Airport to receive a Fokker 28 Commercial aircraft which skidded off upon landing due to the seizure of one of the rear under carriages blocking the only runway of the airport. Within five hours the team had successfully recovered the aircraft without any secondary damage and the airport was reopened.
One of the most challenging but successful aircraft recovery operations ever carried out by the team was one involving a Boeing 747-200 series Cargo aircraft in June 2007. The aircraft was off loading its contents when it tilted causing the lower tail cone to rest flat on the ground and the nose wheel of the aircraft hanging approximately 5m above the ground.
It took the team five and half hours to bring the nose wheel safely to the ground after mobilizing and assembling the centralized air control module (CACM) 90 aircraft lifting airbags, 120 air hoses, five remote control consoles, five air distributors, 90 pressure relief valves and 90 topping valves. It was a remarkable achievement.
GACL recently took delivery of two top of the range Oshkosh Striker Fire Tenders which has been deployed to Kumasi and Tamale airports.
The Airport Striker Fire tenders were manufactured by the Oshkosh Corporation – a US-based niche company widely reputed as manufacturers of the industry’s toughest specialty trucks and access equipment used in some of the busiest airports globally.
The Rescue and Fire Fighting team provides mandatory fire cover to airlines during refueling with passengers on board to reduce fire risk and rapid rescue evacuation in the event of any emergency.
With the capabilities of the GACL Rescue and Fire Fighting team, airlines operating into all GACL’s Airports and the potential users of the airport are assured of a safe and reliable service.