ARFFWG Chiefs & Leadership- NTSB & Hanscom

I attended the ARFFWG Chiefs and Leadership conference last week in sunny and warm Florida.  Well, it wasn’t completely sunny and warm the whole week, but far better than the weather the rest of the country was experiencing at the time.

As you know, I have a few interests and the largest of those is ARFF.  I attended this conference out-of-pocket because I support the mission of the ARFF Working Group and because I am terribly nerdy.  Yes, I am sure you figured that last one out, but I really learn so very much by listening to the ARFF professionals speak formally and informally.  This knowledge assists me with research and with teaching, as well.  Plus, it helped me once during a game of trivia with some friends.

The conference itself was the highest attended Chiefs and Leadership conference to date and the presentations ranged from various interesting topics.  I am a policy junkie, no doubt engrained in me during my time in Public Administration, and so I gained a great deal of information from the NFPA, FAA and NTSB updates.  There were two other presentations that I found extremely interesting: NFPA 1851 – The Risk Assessment Flight Plan and NTSB Incident Updated (Hanscom).

I decided today to focus on the presentation given by Mr. Peter Wentz, NTSB Investigator, and Chief Ted Costa, Massport Fire: NTSB Incident Updated (Hanscom). This May 31, 2014 incident involved a Gulfstream aircraft that was destroyed after a “rejected takeoff and runway excursion at Laurence G. Hanscom Field (BED), Bedford, Massachusetts. The two pilots, a flight attendant, and four passengers were fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed for the flight destined for Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Atlantic City, New Jersey. The business flight was conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 (NTSB Incident Report).”


Picture from article: Safety steps ignored before Hanscom crash, NTSB report shows

Wentz outlined how during an investigation the NTSB invites the FAA and other organizations who can provide assistance concerning discussion and analysis on the crash.  Generally speaking this would include airline operators, manufactures, unions, airport ARFF, etc. Costa stated that during this incident, which occurred at a Massport airport, various other organizations were in attendance– state police, FBI, rescue companies, firefighters from airport and surrounding areas, etc.

It was highlighted that the NTSB has the ability to examine everything concerning the crash and sometimes this is not completely understood by the airport.  The speakers both emphasized the need for people to fully read the NTSB Investigation Party Agreement.

Chief Costa was identified as point of contact (POC) for Massport during this investigation.  He stressed that at times he needed to remind people on both sides of this decision and that even a 1 1/2 year later that commitment was still there with requests for interviews, attorney calls, etc. It was noted that this position is a true long commitment. Granted, it depends on how each airport wants to organize, but it was highly suggested to maintain one POC from the airport.  The NTSB operates in that manner by having a lead investigator for an incident in order to provide accuracy.

Also, touched upon was the fact that once an incident occurs it is too late to create policies, training, maps, documents, etc., because NTSB arrives quickly.  Mr. Jim Price, Airport Certification & Safety Inspector for the FAA, actually added to the discussion and suggested that it is best to keep all records updated – training records, maintenance records, etc.  –  in order to save NTSB time.  This will allow you to be prepared for not only the crash, but also after the crash.

This particular incident had an issue with water supply being exhausted after 25 minutes and being 1300 feet from the closest hydrant.  There was a total of 14 minutes without any ability for firefighting due to there was no resupply hose dropped at the hydrant. Also discovered was that the grid map did not have all gates or hydrants marked. This was a lesson learned that was stressed by the presenters.  It was suggested that the grid maps be reviewed more often and utilized more.

There was only one recommendation that came from this investigation, which dealt with frangibility.  “Aircraft hit lighting system localizer antenna, and perimeter fence outside runway safety area (RSA), fittings were not frangible, only structures inside RSA must be frangible” – from PPT (I will insert a link to the PPT once this is released by the ARFFWG). Wentz stated that the FAA is working on incorporating something into their information to address the recommendation.

This was a great overview of an NTSB investigation and reminder to everyone that it is always best to be prepared.  Stressed was also how very involved such investigations are, even when they are not dealing with larger aircrafts, such as the Asiana crash at SFO airport.  There is no better way to learn than to listen to someone who has first hand knowledge and experience from a topic – in this case, an NTSB investigation.


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