WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Each year, tens of thousands of flights take off and land at T.F. Green Airport and according to records requested by Target 12, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting department has responded to 122 aircraft incidents since 2013.
Alan Andrade, RIAC’s senior vice president of operations and maintenance, says that number of incidents is typical for an airport the size of T.F. Green.
“The level of activity that we have here at T.F. Green, that’s very comparable across the country,” Andrade said.
The fire department classifies incidents into three levels: Alert 1, Alert 2, and Alert 3.
Alert 3 is the most serious, and according to a breakdown of incidents, there has only been one Alert 3 at T.F. Green in the past five years – a small plane that skidded to a stop when its nose wheel collapsed.
For Alert 2 incidents involving commercial planes, data shows bird strikes, hydraulic failures, smoke in the aircraft, laser threats, and aborted take-offs.
An incident on March 25, 2018, involving a United flight was classified as an Alert 2 incident for a landing gear malfunction.
Airport records reveal the crew had to do a manual gear extension, noting there were “no issues during landing.”
“In most cases, almost every case, it ends up being a non-event but we’re always prepared,” Andrade said. “Our folks train year round, and they’re fully trained, fully prepared and fully ready.”
The airport fire department employs four groups of four crew members working on rotating shifts. The average salary is $141,000.
Mutual aid is also factored into emergency planning. That support comes from nine surrounding communities including Warwick, Providence and Cranston.
For emergencies inside the terminal, the Warwick Fire Department has jurisdiction and receives $500,000 annually to respond to fires and other emergencies, including medical issues.
The Fire Department’s Fleet
There are three specialized airport firefighting vehicles at T.F. Green airport.
“The main purpose for these trucks is to get to the aircraft as quickly as possible,” Andrade explained.
Combined, the airport’s three vehicles hold 7,500 gallons of water and foam. According to FAA regulations, an airport the size of T.F. Green only requires two vehicles that have 3,000 gallons of water and foam.
Target 12 has also learned T.F. Green has four crew members on duty at any given time. The FAA requires two.
“We’re above what the FAA is requiring for our staff and then we bring in mutual aid for any additional needs,” Andrade said.
The airport’s newest vehicle is a 2009 model. The oldest is from 1998.
Andrade says the typical lifespan of a fire truck at an airport is at least 15 years.
“Once it’s over 15 years old, it becomes eligible for replacement,” he explained. “But they will also look at the equipment itself. What are the characteristics and what’s the condition of the vehicle itself? So it has to be justifiable for replacement.”
Target 12 requested five years’ worth of maintenance records on all the vehicles. The records show regular inspections and service. Repairs include a coolant leak and a dry chemical hose that was kinking.
Andrade said the wear and tear on the vehicles is minimal.
“Keep in mind, these vehicles are solely for the airport and they’re only responding for the airport,” Andrade said. “For the most part, these vehicles are stationary, in the airfield, under cover inside a garage 24/7 unless they’re out on a call.”
There are plans to replace the 1998 vehicle. Andrade says replacement trucks take about a year to build, so he’s expecting the new truck to be delivered next summer.
The new truck will cost about $800,000.