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CHICAGO - The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) and the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) today announced an investment to provide new and improved training for firefighters training at O’Hare International Airport. New construction of a state-of-the-art large frame aircraft simulator will not only deliver technology enhancements to the fire training system at the airport, but will also provide new and more realistic firefighter training on the new Group VI aircraft that will begin operating at O’Hare.
When these upgrades to training and training infrastructure are complete next year, O’Hare will offer one of the most advanced Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) training sites in the world.
“Safety is always our top priority at Chicago’s airports, and we are fortunate in our strong partnership with the Chicago Fire Department, who always provides a swift and effective response to keep our passengers safe,” said CDA Commissioner Ginger S. Evans. “Thanks to support by our airline partners, investments in fire training technology will ensure firefighters are ready as O’Hare begins to receive bigger aircraft and an increased international capacity in the years to come.”
Work will begin this fall on a three-part project to design, expand and maintain the current fire training system at O’Hare. This includes construction of a new triple-deck, large frame aircraft (LFA) simulator based on the design of a B-747 and A-380 jumbo aircraft, modifications to existing infrastructure and burner elements in the fuel burn area, and the installation of new software to operate the new spill fire simulator.
These cutting-edge enhancements will support CFD in preparing firefighters to respond to fires and emergencies on a replica of larger aircraft, as well as new opportunities to test their skills under new conditions and changes driven by the aviation industry.
“Ensuring that Chicago’s already world class fire training facilities are equipped for changing demands of the industry could only be achieved through close coordination with Chicago's airline partners at the CDA,” said José A. Santiago, CFD commissioner. “These investments will allow CFD to offer unrivaled training and technology for thousands of firefighters in the city and across the region, supporting Chicago’s dedicated airport first responders in achieving a new level of excellence.”
The new simulator will feature the only rotating cabin in the world engineered to simulate a sidewall attitude. The combination of smoke and live fire provided by the simulator, as well as new configurations and dimensions attributed to its size will provide an even more realistic exercise than what is provided today.
Additionally, new touchscreen software technology will enable better monitoring and easier control of fire and smoke production, new audible sounds to make simulation more lifelike, and the ability to detect the firefighters’ location within the simulator.
When complete, the installation of the LFA simulator will build on CFD’s unique training regimen, which includes separate units on both interior rescue and firefighting. Current training will be expanded to include rescue training on the 70-foot simulator, which mimics Group VI aircraft that are nearly 250-feet long—roughly as long as a football field—and which present new challenges to fire response.
These investments in the fire training system at O’Hare will benefit first responders and airports throughout the region, as well. O’Hare houses the Chicago Fire Department Regional Training Facility, which in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other federal requirements for emergency response, facilitates mutual aid at the airport by other area first responders. In addition to training ARFF teams serving O'Hare and Midway International Airports, the training system at O’Hare also doubles as a training center for several other regional airports in the area, including Rockford International Airport, DuPage Airport and Chicago Executive Airport.
The construction of the new simulator and technology implementation will be undertaken by Simulation Live Fire Training Solutions, Inc., an experienced company specializing in fire training technology for use by military and law enforcement entities around the world. The $7.4 million contract meets the City’s goals for M/WBE construction participation and is fully funded by airline revenue, not using any city funds.
These enhancements to the Chicago Fire Department Regional Training facility build on recent investments to bolster training for firefighters at the airport, including a live fire simulator and virtual reality driver simulator. CFD’s record of response and mitigation at O’Hare and Midway has far exceeded federal requirements and will continue to achieve and surpass new standards as CDA undertakes a number of capital investments in the coming years to grow O’Hare’s international capacity and modernize its operations.