Recently our team down in Dunedin underwent training from their local firefighters on how to correctly use a fire extinguisher. Yes, that thing that sits in the cockpit of your aircraft or hangs on one of your hangar walls. That thing that despite being painted red to stand out more often than not easily fades into the background. That thing we hope we'll never have to use.
However, if you did have to use it, would you know how?
When I asked our Chief Engineer in Dunedin, Neville Williamson, for the purpose of this training exercise he said.
Because when push comes to shove, will you need to operate a fire extinguisher? If the answer is yes, and it probably is, you should be trained for that eventuality. Most of the guys here were shocked when they saw how the fire reacted when the wrong technique was used. We dealt with an Avgas and a Jet A1 fire and its surprised us how hard it was to deal with. Anyone working with aircraft should have some training on how they work and how a fire, no matter how small, reacts. Using the correct extinguisher for the right materials that are burning is also a must. They showed us what water does to an oil or fuel fire, it’s frightening to see.
After reflection, regardless of occupation or industry, it makes complete sense to be trained on how to use a fire extinguisher. Would the majority of working adults actually know how to turn it on, let alone use it in the correct way? Doubt it. Perhaps it's time to talk to your local firefighters and see what training is available.
Correct use of a fire extinguisher in the right situation can mean the difference of saving a customer’s aircraft or not.
And while we at Oceania Aviation have procedures in place to reduce the likeliness of getting into a situation where a fire extinguisher is needed, we will be damn sure that if the situation arises, our team know exactly what to do.