February 13, 2020

Trial by fire

Trial by fire

FAA opens firefighting research lab in Atlantic City.

By DC Velocity Staff

The challenge of balancing safety with efficiency touches every part of the global supply chain. Nowhere is that more true than in airport operations, where planes loaded with combustible jet fuel must comply with a long list of regulatory requirements to protect pilots, passengers, and the environment.

The industry's safety efforts took a big step forward in January, when the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it had completed construction on a $5 million 2,500-square-foot research facility in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The site will be used for conducting performance tests of new fire-extinguishing agents that could one day replace aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), a fluorine-based compound that's very effective at extinguishing jet fuel fires but poses an array of environmental and health threats.

According to the FAA, Congress directed the agency in 2018 to stop requiring the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in aircraft firefighting foams within three years. However, fluorine-free foams on the market today do not match the performance of their fluorinated counterparts, the agency says.

So researchers are now using the new facility to conduct performance tests of potential replacement fire-extinguishing agents. The fully enclosed fire-test facility is designed to eliminate weather-related variables in testing, enhance data-collection capabilities, and contain the byproducts of fire-testing chemicals to prevent groundwater contamination, the agency says.

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