Behind the scenes with the fire team at Teesside Airport


Dozens of flights roar from the runway at Teesside Airport every day, but what you might not know is that a crew crew is waiting at its own base.

An arsenal of 22 firefighters, employed by the airport, is based a few minutes from the main terminal, out of public view, but within sight of the entire airstrip.

As a result, very little is known about what goes on behind the scenes and what the team needs to do – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Read more: Teesside Airport confirms Loganair Dublin route will return for 2022

But in a Northern Echo exclusive, we get access to the Teesside Airport fire station and spend the day seeing what life is really like there.

The fire station is located by air traffic control Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

The crew viewed the airstrip from the ‘Watch Room’ Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

David Alderson, supervisor at the fire station, explains how efforts to keep a watchful eye remain “continuous” as they stand by “if anything should happen”, with checks carried out daily.

“There are checks every day”

He says: “We still have six crew members on duty, seven when Ryanair arrives because it is a higher category.

“We have to work on a check sheet, every morning, 365 days a year, where we check the vehicles, make sure they have water, foam, diesel – there are equipment checks. every day, then it is signed. ”

Tucked away, but ready to go in seconds, four – two of which are used as a back-up – sprawling ‘fire apparatus’ with tires alone costing £ 4,000 are housed inside the fire station.

The Echo of the North:

Two out of four fire apparatuses at the fire station Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

They have a goal of three minutes to arrive at the scene Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

They are able to fight the worst fires and fire thousands of liters every 60 seconds.

Three minutes to arrive at the scene

Team leader Danny Wilson, who has been at the airport for 16 years, explains how they aim to be anywhere on the runway within three minutes of the initial call.

Revealing that there is actually an internal two-minute goal, Danny says that up to 12,000 gallons of foam and water are carried aboard each vehicle, unlike devices used by local authorities which tend to transport about 70% less because there is often water. points of sale nearby.

He says: “Our response time is therefore three minutes from the arrival of the initial call, which includes getting on our kit, getting in the vehicle and going to any point of the car. the track as needed.

“We are going through about 2,000 liters of water per minute and the first three minutes are critical.”

The Echo of the North:

Firefighters must follow airport rules when dealing with a scene Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

The view from runway 23 of Teesside airport Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

At Teesside Airport, they are tasked with handling an aviation incident within 1,000 meters of either end of the runway, which extends beyond a section of the River Tees.

“Not just the airport”

Surveillance manager David says teams need to know every access point and track location in order to deal with an incident.

He says, “Our vehicles can go off-road, for example, we have to cross the River Tees, so we have to know how to cross the other side of the water safely.”

But the crew not only have to face the airport, they are authorized to deal with fires outside the airport at the request of local authorities, although these are usually major incidents. and when the plane is not supposed to arrive.

At Teesside Airport, the team is authorized to respond to an incident – if authorized by air traffic control – but only within three nautical miles of the airport.

The Echo of the North:

Just a part of the crew that was on duty Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

Jim Scott of the Northern Echo tries to be equipped Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

Although we were fitted in about five minutes (well over the allotted time), it may take about two years before full-fledged firefighters can safely tackle an aviation incident.

The training lasts about two years

Much of the Teesside Airport fire station team have extensive experience, with some having served in the Royal Air Force before, as Danny revealed.

He said, “I would say you have to take your basic fire training course, aviation firefighting, on-site training, the basics, to have a really good understanding of the job.

“Personally, you have to be here for two years before you start to know the airport, the tactics and have a good understanding.”

Training that covers everything from how to successfully fight a fire in the most efficient way without wasting limited water to getting tools back in the right place is vital and could otherwise prove fatal.

The Echo of the North:

Everything has its place which ensures that the tools are counted and not left on the trail Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

The firefighter’s uniform should be stored properly to ensure the kit is applied within seconds Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

Danny says: “Even down to the toolbox there is a place for everything like a screwdriver, if it was missing we should look around to make sure it was not left on the trail. because it could have consequences.

“People don’t think we’re busy, but we’re always busy”

Fortunately, Teesside Airport tends to see minor incidents, many of which are declared as “non-urgent, but with that comes a conception that the airport firefighters are not busy.” ”

Danny says this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the daily checks required to meet aviation standards take a large chunk of time.

He adds, “People don’t think we’re busy, but we’re always busy – we always have work to do.

The Echo of the North:

The team carries out checks at the terminal Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Echo of the North:

The team carries out checks at the terminal Photo: SARAH CALDECOTT

From routine terminal fire checks to medical emergencies, snow removal, grass mowing and standby, the team has a busy schedule.

He said: “In winter, when there is snow, it must be removed as if there is only 1 ml of snow left, when an airplane arrives on the other side of the runway, the height n It’s not sure – so it’s our job to maintain and keep it from freezing again.

Describing another very important role that may not immediately seem obvious, Danny says mowing the grass is an absolute necessity in their attempt to reduce the risk to wildlife in the area.

In 2009, an American airliner made headlines around the world after both engines failed due to a bird strike during take-off from New York’s LaGuardia.

Danny explains that birds and wildlife pose a similar risk, so grass should be kept below a minimum level, and experts are sometimes called in to move certain breeds of birds from the airport.

He adds: “You have a place where you can’t even move their eggs, so we appeal to the Wetland Trust and they have come in previous years to help them get them safely away from the area.”

Adding that nothing the team does would work without every member, Danny firmly says that the secret to a successful fire station is coming together and good old-fashioned teamwork.

Earlier this year, that same team saw two new hires as Amy Caldwell and Michael Hastings were recruited to provide an immediate response to any incident on site.

At the time, Amy said, “I am really delighted to join the airport crew and the team have been incredibly welcoming.

“Working at one site, while important, is a bit of a change from working in the community, but it’s a new challenge that I can’t wait to take on. ”

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