Firefighters are the experts in how to fight fires and how to evacuate people in cars and trucks. They are familiar with those vehicles.
If an airplane goes down, that's a little more challenging. When it comes to airplanes, fuel lines, turn off valves and tank locations vary from plane to plane. The fuel lines are never where you expect them. They may be inside the opening to the door or under the fuselage.
As one of the firefighters from the Payson Fire Department said, "Learning about the fuel was the most important learning for me."
To better understand these differences, Paul Pitkin organized a Payson Airport General Aviation Emergency Training Day. First responders from Payson, Beaver Valley, Hellsgate and Houston Mesa Fire Departments, Gila Community College and Life Star EMS came to learn more about what to look for when evacuating people from airplanes.
These first responders may be dealing with one- or two-engine airplanes with one or two doors. It may be more difficult to evacuate the pilot when there is no door on the left side of the plane.
"We get some Medevac training, but never as in depth as this," related a firefighter from Beaver Valley.
Assisting Pitkin were the sponsors of the program, members of the Payson Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter #810 and residents of Mazatzal Airpark.
Payson Regional Airport Authority representatives answered questions about issues of concern to the firefighters.
The pilots brought in several airplanes; among them were Cessna, Piper and Bonanza aircraft, both single- and multi-engine. A few specialty airplanes like the Agricultural Pawnee were eye-catching.
As one participant said when asked what he thought of the day, "I even learned a little about crop dusting planes."
The firefighters went from plane to plane, learning about their differences and similarities. Pilots answered many questions about location of batteries, the best way to cut into an airplane and, of course, where the fuel lines were located.
Pilots were eager to share information about their particular airplanes.
The firefighters told the pilots, "Everyone here was very enthusiastic."
The morning ended with all sitting down to a barbecue lunch and watching a video from the Federal Aviation Administration on emergency response.