Airport gets state-of-the-art vehicle

Published 12:02 am Saturday, January 5, 2008

NATCHEZ —Airport manager Clint Pomeroy just got a brand new toy — a big, bright-green fire-truck.

“It’s pretty fancy,” he said. “I mean it is state-of-the-art.”

The fire-truck the Natchez-Adams airport received Thursday is indeed state-of-the-art.

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The brand new truck is specifically designed to fight fires at airports.

The truck is built on the chassis of a 2008 Ford F-550 4×4. The massive rig is powered by a twin-turbo charged diesel engine.

And though the truck weighs 14,000 pounds, it’s actually quite fast.

“Oh it definitely scoots,” Pomeroy said, speeding across the runway at the airport.

On Friday, Gary Lindsey of Crash Rescue Service met with Pomeroy and other airport crewmen for a training session with the new truck.

Crash Rescue, based in Dallas, built the truck now at the airport.

“As far as rapid intervention vehicles go,” Lindsey said. “This is pretty much the Cadillac.”

Lindsey then climbed into the driver’s seat, flipped a switch, pushed a button and a psychedelic-looking cloud of purple dust shot from the hood-mounted turret of the truck.

“That is purple-k,” he said.

Purple-k or, PKW, is a powdered fire-extinguishing dust that Lindsey said is especially good at extinguishing fires from crashed aircrafts.

The airport’s new truck can carry 500 pounds of purple-k and coat a fire with it at a rate of nine pounds per second.

The test of the purple-K pump system was brief though, as the product is very expensive, Lindsey said.

It sells for about $22 per pound.

The same turret can also shoot a jet of water and propel a fire retardant foam.

And like a giant drivable video game, the truck has a joystick mounted in the cab that allows the driver to operate the nozzle-mounted turret.

The driver never has to leave the cab of the truck to fight a fire.

In fact, the nozzle can be aimed and operated while driving the truck at any speed.

Where the rear view mirror would be normally located the fire-truck has an infrared camera that allows the driver to aim his hose at the hottest part of the fire.

While the truck is certainly a blast to use it is actually a serious piece of equipment Pomeroy said.

“It is a valuable tool,” he said. “And we really needed a new one.”

The airport’s old fire truck is over 30-years-old and uses a hose, operated by an exposed worker, to fight flames.

“This is just much safer for every one to use,” he said.

And safety is the main reason the airport got the new truck.

Pomeroy said when the Federal Aviation Administration conducted an inspection of the airport sometime ago they strongly recommended the airport get a new fire-truck.

So Pomeroy got a grant from the FAA that paid for 95 percent of the truck.

The other five percent was paid for from state and local taxes.

Pomeroy said the vehicle came with a price tag of just over $200,000.