The Casper/Natrona County International Airport will be receiving almost $9 million from the federal government to renovate its Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting training facility, the airport announced May 14.
The Casper airport is among only a handful of airports in the region with facilities to train the firefighters whose job it would be to extinguish an aircraft if it caught fire. The Federal Aviation Administration requires all commercial airports to have trained ARFF personnel on site, and those personnel receive training annually.
Casper having its own facility to conduct that training is invaluable, airport director Glenn Januska said.
But, he said, their facilities are getting old. Casper’s training facility opened in 1995, and Januska said without the $8,718,750 Supplemental Airport Improvement Program grant, the airport would likely have had to close that training facility.
That grant is funded by the Federal Aviation Trust Fund, which uses taxes collected from airline tickets to support U.S. airline capital and operational costs.
The grant will help fund the reconstruction of the training facility in Casper and a new 3,000 gallon ARFF vehicle, as well as expanding the Airport Public Safety Facility to provide dedicated training space. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $9.3 million.
Without the facility, Casper airport’s safety personnel would need to travel elsewhere for their annual training, incurring costs for travel, hotels and food. But having the facility is about more than saving money, Januska said.
“We get people from all over the country coming here to use the training facility,” he said.
When airline safety departments use Casper’s facilities, they typically stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants, Januska said, helping the local economy.
Because the Salt Lake City training facility recently closed and the Denver International Airport facility does not train personnel outside of Colorado, Casper’s facility is used more often.
Januska said some airports prefer Casper’s facility because they use diesel fuel, rather than propane gas to simulate aircraft fires. He said using diesel is more realistic and many departments prefer that.
Since 1995, Casper has trained 2400 ARFF personnel and completed roughly eight training sessions annually. In comparison, the Denver International Airport completes between six and 10 external trainings annually, Denver airport training chief Ryan Nuanes said.
“I’m anticipating we’re going to have more and more demand going forward,” Januska said.
Indeed, the new facility could bring back departments that have since opted to use facilities further away.
The Jackson Hole Airport used to use Casper’s facilities. In recent years, they have opted for training facilities in Montana and Dallas, Jackson Hole Airport Assistant Director Dustin Havel said.
Havel said part of the decision to use those facilities over Casper’s was that they are newer. He said with the upcoming renovations at Casper, Jackson Hole’s airport would likely begin using Casper’s facilities again.
“It would be an additional one we would put in our rotation,” he said.
In addition to the single-day trainings, Casper also provides a weeklong training, as mandated by the FAA, to new airport safety personnel.
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