ARFF 2013 – Conference Report

Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting 2013  | Dubai  |  10th – 11th December 2013  |   The International Aviation Fire Protection Association was formed in 2000 by a group of airport and fire professionals (the original Group of 7) to promote information exchange and the improvement of  Aircraft Rescue, Fire Fighting (ARFF)  and airport facility fire protection.

Under the direction of its new Chairman, Cletus Packiam (appointed in January 2013), IAFPA has formed a closer tie with the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Working Group (ARFFWG), with the aim of raising the profile and standards in the industry. As part of raising the International recognition of IAFPA itself, the Board committed to a global Conference in the Middle East, based on the fast growing hub of Dubai.

Tangent Link was appointed to assist with the organization of the new Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting event in the recently completed Oberoi Hotel.


Day One

On Day One, Tangent Link managed the G7 Fire Chiefs meeting, with a record attendance of Fire Chiefs (38) from the Asia Pacific, US, Europe and the Middle East.  With such experience on hand, the Conference agenda over the following two days was populated with a rich vein of well informed and high quality presenters. Coupled with the full support of Dubai Airports and 140 delegates from over 30 nations and a strong representation of  Exhibitors, the Conference was widely judged to be most informative, the programme and venue encouraging a high  degree of valuable networking.


On the afternoon of the Fire Chiefs meeting, the majority of delegates visited the new Al Maktoum airport, focus for the rapidly developing Dubai World Central’  This was the new venue for the Dubai Air Show held in November and given that Dubai was recently awarded Expo 2020,  this is clearly a place where significant deals can be struck. The new airport is also the site of the world’s only full size A380 Airbus mock up for the training of Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting crews. and delegates enjoyed a full internal tour before watching a live external fire demonstration. Numbers happily precluded the full experience in breathing apparatus in the smoke filled aircraft.


ARFF 2013 Fire Demo LARGE


The Conference itself was divide into five key sessions, and for the main part with 45 minute presentations, which, along with separate panel sessions allowed time for the vigorous contribution of questions and comment from the delegates.  This undoubtedly shaped the atmosphere of the event and at least 20 individuals signed up as IAFPA members and received certificates and membership cards in an impromptu presentation. Interest was shown in Corporate Membership by several companies and a new Fire Chiefs Directory’ was compiled, including entries from beyond the Conference. All speakers received IAFPA  Coins’ and Exhibitors Certificates, presented at a Gala Dinner at the newest Dubai venue, the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, sponsored by Dubai Airports.


After a Welcome Address from the IAFPA Chairman, the Keynote address was made by Mark Woodward, appropriately from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority. No sinecure, this was a valuable scene setter for the Conference and a perfect lead into the first session “Meeting ICAO Standard for Airfield Fire Protection.’ This potentially dry subject was brought to life by the former ICAO (Montreal) Fire Chief, Arun Rao, whose duties had covered aviation facilities world wide, and a duo from Air Services Australia, Glenn Wood (Fire Chief) and Rodd Sciortino (National Operations Manager). Together they highlighted the challenges of a huge expansion in airport facilities to cope with increased passenger numbers, visitors enjoying the cheap Aussie dollars and Chinese mining and other activities. Such expansion places heavy demands on appropriately trained personnel, lending additional relevance to the ARFF Training session on Day Two.  It is also an object lesson for the rapidly expanding Dubai facilities, where no amount of money can short circuit the required training and experience.


Session 2 addressed two case studies of aircraft accidents, BA38 which landed short of the runway at Heathrow (Allan Dawson Airport Fire Manager) and QF32 which suffered the dramatic failure of a Trent engine necessitating the early recovery of a very heavy and damaged A380 to Singapore’s Changi airport (Cletus Packiam in his role of  Chief Airport Emergency Services). The more recent accident of Asiana 214, hitting the sea wall at San Fransisco is sub judice but had parallel lessons to learn. All three had degrees of heavy landing with associated recovery problems, but for varying reasons, and despite the presence of large quantities of fuel, there were no significant fires.  Much was learned from this good fortune by considering the ARFF implications of large fires, human trauma and the implications of these aircraft coming down in large populated areas.   John Anderson, ex USAF but now Fire Chief for the Emirates Response Services, gave a master class in his Instructional Technique for motivating and inspiring his up and coming Emirates staff in dealing with Military Aircraft Emergencies.


Day Two 

Day two opened with the third Session on Training of ARFF Personnel. Brian McKinney, Fire Chief for the 7 runway Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, in another high octane presentation, highlighted the challenges in motivating trainees from the Millennium Generation.  Appropriately he linked live via the internet to his Fire Training Centre where his young team gave the essence of the presentation, demonstrating the wide range of scenarios available using up to date computer technology.. The Singapore Aviation Academy, described by their Principal Instructor Gerard Gomez, caters not only for ARFF training, but inter alia, Government agencies exercising Business Continuity Plans,.  There is a proliferation of such national colleges with ICEM (International College of Engineering Management) from the Oman exhibiting at the event, while the UAE Safety & Security faculty in Abu Dhabi is building an entire Disaster Management City’ (appropriately name Jaheziya or Preparedness) for training; their Director General, Major General Rashed, showed his interest by paying a visit to the Conference.  The Chartered Asia Technology Enterprise, CATE, is a private company with customers such as the Singaporean Defence Science Technology Agency (DSTA) and also attended as an Enhanced Sponsor for the Conference


Session 4 on new Emerging Technologies was an opportunity for the two key Sponsors, Solberg Foam and Kidde Fire Trainers to showcase their wares. Jan Solberg the Norwegian owner of the foam company gave an impromptu history lesson which included the need for firefighters to be confronted with the real life hydro carbon fuels and not just the propane gas common in simulators. His in-country Business Development Manager Andy Hall (interrupting his honeymoon!) spoke on the Changes in ICAO Fire Fighting Foam Testing – a valuable insight illuminating the flaws in the various testing regimes which allow lesser products to qualify. Peter Gould of Kidde Fire Trainers who had sponsored the A380 fire simulation event enlarged upon the variety of products to meet any requirement and pocket. Suppliers of Firefighting  and Rescue Vehicles were present en masse, Kronenburg kindly sponsoring a variety of delegate gifts (including Stress Balls – not required in this good natured and interactive community!)


Appropriately the final Session 5 was on the vital topic of Business Continuity Planning, which, notwithstanding the lateness on this second day still attracted a large audience.  Kim Olsen, Assistant Fire Chief for Copenhagen Airports highlighted the particular problems associated with a confined land mass and the Airport crowded by the populace. Attracting much of the adverse winter weather, Business Continuity in the Danish capital is an entire community issue.  Gillies Crichton, an IAFPA Board Member and Head of Assurance for Glasgow Airport is most highly qualified in this field and his presentation focused on our seeming inability to learn from the lessons of the past and from similar systemic failures in other public activities. An irony of aircraft accidents (where the cause more often than not is a procedural error by aircrews or an aircraft material failure), is that the relevant airline is the first to press for (income generation) operations to be restored.


It had been the intention for Jamal Zaal, the Vice President Airside Operations for Dubai Airports, which provided support to the Conference, to make the Opening Address, however he was unavailable on the day.  He was nevertheless available to close the event, arriving in time to tour the Exhibition and to hear the all important final session on Business Continuity.  He spoke with great clarity on the importance of this event and suggested that it should be repeated locally after the Dubai Airshow in 2015.


A hall mark of this Conference was the quality of the contributors and the attendees, attracting the interest of both international and regional luminaries such as the Director General Fire & Rescue from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ahmed A. Al-Johani.  Coupled with the support of IAFPA members, and Exhibitors who see a clear opportunity for sales, the prospects for this event to become established in the Dubai calendar is high. Tangent Link was proud to be selected as the Conference management company.


Terry Loughran

Rear Admiral CB, FRAeS

Conference Chairman