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Christchurch Airport: Fighting fire with VR

06 May 2019

Virtual reality has become an important training tool for firefighters at Christchurch airport – the first airport in the country to use custom-designed VR programmes with the help of its own team.

According to Christchurch Airport manager of airfield operations, Tim Morris, says firefighters are first responders to more than 500 emergencies on the airport grounds every year.

“That includes fires, rescues, alarm activations and hazardous material spills, medical emergencies and aircraft incidents,” Morris explains.  

“Our team trains every day to meet tough standards, and this new technology offers an extra component, enabling the firefighters to train for difficult situations they can’t always access, such as inside aircraft.”

He adds that investment into the airport fire service is also an investment in the airport itself, and for the safety of everyone on the airport grounds. He says that safety is ‘non-negotiable’.

Airport Fire Service manager, Chief Fire Officer Peter Moore, says all his firefighting teams have taken the VR training with very positive responses.
 
“VR replicates fire scenarios on a scale not possible in our training area, so it’s a valuable new tool,” he explains. 

“Our firefighters can use this training to prepare for an actual aircraft emergency, so when the time comes they will be in an environment they are familiar with and confident in. This VR training is an extra tool for our teams to become more familiar with aircraft systems and layout, and will further build muscle memory.”

Christchurch Airport’s manager of digital solutions and data technology, Art Martinson, says both local firefighters and the airport company developed the VR training.

“Our VR platform takes us from observation to immersion, so it’s the next generation of training and recruitment. We’ll continue to develop more simulations of real situations that are otherwise almost impossible to train for in real life,” says Martinson.