Virtual training for emergency realities
Christchurch Airport, New Zealand, turned to virtual reality technology to aid the training of airport fire fighters. Firefighters uses virtual training on top of the other conventional training methods. An example of innovative evolution within airport operations. As airport fire fighters do some of the most challenging work and are considered by many to be heroes.
At Christchurch Airport, New Zealand’s second largest airport, the fire fighters are first on the scene at more than 500 emergencies every year. This includes fires, rescues, alarm activations, fuel and hazardous material spills, special services, medical emergencies and aircraft incidents.
The men and women of the fire service are highly and specially trained. They hone their skills every day they are on duty but there is one aspect of their work which has been very difficult to train for. Until now…
Now firefighters uses VR
The airport’s fire fighters have added virtual reality (VR) equipment to train for aircraft fires. This means that training that takes part in an aircraft that is on fire is no longer necessary. VR immersive training allows now to train without the inconvenience of clearing an area to carry out a training session and in top safe conditions.
Tim Morris, Manager Airfield Operations, said the money being invested in the fire service gives the team the experience of managing an aircraft fire without actually being in such a fire.
“Using VR takes us from observation to immersion and is the next generation of training and recruitment. We can simulate real situations that are otherwise almost impossible to train for in real life,” he said.
“The fire fighters will be able to fight fires without fighting fires, so when the time comes to fight an actual aircraft fire, they will be working in an environment they are familiar and confident with.”
The VR experience
The fire fighters are the first in New Zealand to use headgear to visualize and interact in a very tough situation, and it’s truly significant.
“This training replicates possible fire scenarios on a scale not possible in our training area. So it is a very valuable addition to the suite of training options we already have,” he explained. “This new generation training gives unconstrained access to the interior and exterior of various aircraft. So fire fighters can get well familiarized to work in and around the aircraft. They navigate their way through it in very low visibility. They can locate specific items, perform emergency shutdown of aircraft engines, work with the specialized equipment.”
Furthermore, offering such specialized training also reduces production and operational costs, as continuing to develop over time.
The initiative was developed to produce an innovative and powerful virtual reality training program which will be able to evolve as needs require.
VR offers top safety training in dangerous context
Manager Digital Solutions and Data Technology, Art Martinson, commented: “VR offers a training platform in a situation where safety is the top priority. It means our people can train for a complex and hazardous scenario without the taking the real risk.”
The team has just completed scanning a second aircraft to add to the training schedule, to expand the VR training opportunities, without needing access to aircraft between flights.
Sustainable and zero risk
The fire team has had a lot of invitations to demonstrate the VR training, including members of New Zealand’s parliament. Just as the fire fighters experience it, guests brave enough can give it a go as well. Experiencing the technology and see how real the sensation is being inside the aircraft in a fire situation.
“The VR training combines necessary training with sustainable training that does not put people or property at risk,” concluded Moore. “We describe it as adding ‘muscle memory’, so instinct and memory will kick in in the event of a real fire. It truly is a win-win and we look forward to adding more aircraft types to our training library.”
Sources International Airport review