"Providing Fire Protection and Aircraft Crash Rescue Since 1940! "

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SIKORSKY AIRCRAFT FIREFIGHTERS

For 60 years, A Part of Aviation History!

By Mark L. Stone

The Sikorsky Fire Department was formed in 1940. The department was small at the time, consisting of nine members. But the department grew along with the progress of the helicopter. The fire department worked hand-in-hand with the test pilots and engineers to make testing as safe, and as danger-free as possible. There was a close bond between the test pilot and the fire department. In the 1950 s, Sikorsky moved its main operations to the current location on the banks of the Housatonic. BLACK HAWKS to Super Stallions, Executive Transport H-3 s to commercial S-76 s Ė some ground running while others are taking off for the initial flight. The flight field is a beehive of activity. Two-Tugs bring aircraft to and from the hangers. Mechanics climb on the aircraft, making adjustments after their initial test flight. At the north end of the field a new aircraft sits by itself, waiting. The crew of the aircraft canít and wonít start the engines or run the rotorhead until they arrive. Theyíre waiting for the crew of the OshKosh T-6 from the Sikorsky Fire Department. About a minute after the aircraft powers up for the first time and the crew radios the tower, the overhead door on the fire department opens and the crash truck drives along the flight line to the north and of the field for the initial engine start and head turn. The crash truck swings wide to a spot on the nose of the aircraft so the turret operator can cover either engine if a fire erupts. The truckís crew chief hops out to take his position standing by, fully geared with extinguisher in hand as the aircraftís engine start for the first time. After the large cloud of smoke from the preservative burning off clears the crew chief makes sure everything is fine, the crash truck repositions as the aircraft makes its initial head turn. This is just one of many duties preformed by the Sikorsky Aircraft Fire Department. From crash fire and rescue to medical response, the members of the department carry out their duties in the most professional manner. Each member of the department is an EMT-D and a hazardous materials technician. But the specialty of this elite group of firefighters is its crash fire and rescue ability. The average member has been working and training for 20 years. Eighty-five percent of the members have come from other fire departments or military crash crews, bringing their knowledge and experience with them. Itís the type of department you donít want to leave. If youíre at the top of your game, itís where you want to play. Today, the Sikorsky Fire Department provides services to Sikorsky Aircraft, as well as the surrounding communities, by supplying Mutual Aid to the cities and towns of Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford, Shelton and any other community that calls on the Department. The Fire Department and the Defense Contract Management Command Pilots of the Navy office at Sikorsky run a community public relations program. Bringing a BLACK HAWK and a Crash Truck to local schools and speaking to the students about the importance of education and the opportunities that are available to the kids who stay in school. Giving tours to the local scout troops is just another way the fire department keeps an active role in the community. One of the ways the members of the department keeps their edge, is with constant drills and training. In 1999 alone, the Sikorsky Fire Department held 143 drills consisting of crash drills, extraction, rescue drills, rescue boat drills, medical drills and live fire training. During 1999, 80 percent of the department was enrolled in fire technology and administration college credit courses. The job of being a firefighter is a constant learning experience. Training and updating our skills to keep up with the advancements of the world around us is essential to our growth. Those of us who work in the field of aviation firefighting and rescue know more then anyone how fast technology changes. We learn, we practice and we get better Ė and thatís something to be proud of.