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NTSB digests recommendations to improve ARFF response

09 November 2018
NTSB investigators examining the rear of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 following the July 2013 crash at San Francisco International Airport. The US safety agency is now assessing a set of research papers from the ARFF Working Group on how to improve emergency response. Source: Getty Images

The July 2013 crash at San Francisco International Airport continues to cast a long shadow

The Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Working Group (ARFF-WG) has advised the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on ways to improve how airport emergency response teams react to accidents.

Four recommendations were issued by the NTSB in its investigation of the July 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport, and in July 2014 it assigned the ARFF-WG to work with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The ARFF-WG created task groups to research each specific topic and provide advice on how best to address it. The four research papers were completed at the end of 2017, briefed to ARFF-WG members in February 2018, and formally presented to senior NTSB technical staff seven months later.

ARFF-WG board member Duane Kann, an ex-fire chief at Orlando International, told Jane’s that the NTSB is evaluating the work to see if more research is needed. Once it is satisfied, the NTSB will present the research papers to its members for further action. Kann did not know when that will occur.

In its investigation, the NTSB blamed pilot error for the crash in which three passengers were killed, including a Chinese teenager thrown from the B-777 and run over by ARFF vehicles responding to the incident.

The NTSB said the arriving incident commander that day placed an officer in charge of the fire attack who had not received ARFF training, and who “made decisions that reflected his lack of such training”. Furthermore, it added, the airport fire department responded with two vehicles equipped with high-reach extendable turrets (HRETs) “that were not used to the best of their capabilities”. The NTSB also found there was no guidance or any recommended protocols for ensuring the safety of passengers and crew at risk of being struck or rolled over by a vehicle during ARFF operations.

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