AF Hangar acceptance testing checklist paves way for new standards

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U.S. Air Force photo by Susan Lawson

A fire protection engineer trains fire alarm shop staff at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on a newly installed flame detection system during acceptance testing of a hangar addition.

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Fire protection engineers convened recently for the final acceptance test of an aircraft hangar foam fire suppression system at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The addition to the 99th Air Base Wing fuel cell maintenance hangar was the first Air Force hangar fire suppression system to be tested with new Unified Facilities Criteria, which requires fire suppression system activation by triple infrared detection technology.

Judy Biddle, hangar fire suppression subject matter specialist at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB, Florida, has been developing standardized checklist to be followed for all future acceptance tests around the world.

The standardized project acceptance checklist effort began after it was discovered that the hangar fire suppression acceptance testing process differed depending on the fire protection engineer overseeing the test. There was no uniformity even within agencies.

“In order to provide a more reliable fire suppression system and reduce or eliminate false activations, we need both oversight and consistency,” Biddle said.

This project, along with projects at Hill AFB, Utah, and McConnell AFB, Kansas, will provide criteria for standardized Air Force hangar fire suppression acceptance testing. 

The visit also included joint services FPE working group meetings for standardizing the checklist, providing training and moving forward to bring uniformity across the services on hangar fire suppression systems. FPEs from the Air Force, Air National Guard, Navy, Army Corps of Engineers and industry participated to make this an educational experience of benefit across the Air Force enterprise, as well as influence future industry standards.

The hangar fire suppression system designer and FPE, designed the hangar fire suppression system at Nellis AFB.

“Fire protection in hangars had reached an equilibrium state,” said Chris Cahill, FPE and hangar fire suppression system designer for the Nellis AFB system.

In addition to the Air Force hangar study conducted over the past year, the Air National Guard has been conducting a similar study.  Air Force and Air National Guard FPEs have worked closely together and provided valuable insight towards standardization efforts.

Fire protection engineers from Nellis AFB attended the hangar’s fire suppression system testing for safety and educational purposes. Irvin Ridgeway, 99th CES fire prevention specialist, led the group through this process.

“This was one of the most thorough tests I have witnessed and I am positive I know exactly what to look for on future tests,” said Ridgeway. “The live propane pan fires to test the new triple IR detectors were an interesting revision from the jet fuel pan fires used previously. This was also an ‘out of the norm’ hangar addition that connected two systems into one and Ms. Biddle’s system determinations were extremely valuable.”

Nellis AFB will continue to work closely with AFCEC to ensure future hangar fire suppression systems meet criteria.