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Watch A Retired Boeing 727 In Action As A Fire & Rescue Trainer


Most airliners are scrapped after their flying careers are over, but some are lucky enough to continue working after retirement. FedEx's 727s are among the lucky ones, most of which were donated to various schools, museums, and airports after they were retired from service. One of their 727-100s, N144FE, was donated to the Millington Municipal Jetport in Millington, Tennessee, in 2003 as a trainer for fire, rescue, and law enforcement agencies. The airport is located approximately 16 miles north of Memphis.

I was recently given the opportunity to observe a full scale mock disaster response exercise using this donated aircraft. The FAA requires the airport to conduct such an exercise every three years in order to meet its requirements under the FAA regulations. In this exercise, the airport's Airport Emergency Plan (AEP) will be practiced and tested with the close cooperation of various local fire and law enforcement agencies, including the Millington Airport Fire Department, City of Millington Fire Department, Shelby County Fire Department, Millington Police, Shelby County Emergency Operations Center, and AMR Ambulance Service.

According to Aviation Week Intelligence Network's Fleet database, this 727-21C was originally ordered by Pan Am in May 1965. It bears serial number 19137 and was the 316th 727 to be built. It first flew on September 9, 1966 as N342PA and was delivered to Pan Am on October 7, 1966. It subsequently saw service with Transbrasil in 1974 (as PT-TCB), Arrow Air in 1982 (as N727LJ), Evergreen International Airlines in 1984 (as N723EV), and finally FedEx in 1987 (as N144FE). By the time it was retired 2003, it had accumulated 48485 hours and 48298 cycles.

In this mock disaster scenario, the captain of a cargo aircraft has suffered an in-flight heart attack. During an emergency landing by the co-pilot, the #3 engine disintegrated and showered debris on the ground below. On landing, there was a fuel leak off the right wing and the copilot suffered smoke inhalation. In other words, our fictitious flight crew is having a very bad day.

The following photos from this event shows the response by emergency personnel and how they might respond to a real emergency.

Representatives from the various agencies are briefed prior to the drill.

The 727, filled with dense smoke and two dummy pilots, waits for the drill to begin. Note the lack of a #3 engine, which has disintegrated in this scenario and landed somewhere on the airport grounds. Police are responsible for securing such debris until authorities arrive.

The unfortunate copilot of the 727 after the emergency landing.

The captain, in the rear of the aircraft, covered in debris.

The cabin of the 727, scattered with aircraft seats and other debris that might be found after an emergency such as a crash landing.

A barrel of water and a pump (left) simulates a fuel leak off the wing while a smoke generator (right) fills the cabin with dense smoke.

The drill has begun, and an airport fire vehicle is the first to respond to the scene.

A second airport fire and rescue vehicle appears shortly afterwards.

Airport fire and rescue personnel prepare to enter the aircraft.

A ladder on the wing is used to gain entry to the aircraft's emergency exits.

Minutes later, the City of Millington Fire Department is on the scene.

Paramedics arrive and stand by to retrieve and treat the victims.

The first dummy pilot is put on a stretcher and taken away.

The main cabin door is opened.

A firefighter searches the aircraft cabin for additional victims.

The second dummy pilot is removed from the aircraft.

A firefighter departs the aircraft via the aircraft's rear airstairs after having completed his search.

A positive pressure ventilation fan, shown resting on the overwing emergency exit, is used to help push the smoke out of the cabin .

Firefighters haul away the positive pressure ventilation fan.

Having successfully rescued the dummy pilots and extinguished the "fire", the drill begins to wind down.

Both pilots were treated and subsequently dumped by the aircraft, ready for their next assignment.

The aircraft's escape slide is tested by one of the dummy pilots.

The pilot after evacuating the aircraft.

Finally, the participants are debriefed on the drill.

PHOTO CREDITS: Brian Bostick

In addition to the challenges of navigating an aircraft cabin filled with debris, the dense smoke can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see when searching for victims or for occupants trying to locate an emergency exit. The Millington Airport Fire Department graciously allowed me, fully suited with firefighting gear including a 25 lb. air tank on my back, to follow them into the smoke-filled 727 to get a small glimpse into what an aircraft cabin might look like in an emergency situation. The footage below is from a GoPro camera I mounted to the lead firefighter's helmet.

Watch a retired Boeing 727 in action as a fire & rescue trainer

Aviation Week's Brian Bostick was recently given the opportunity to observe a full scale mock disaster response exercise using a Boeing 727 donated by Fedex. See photos: http://aviationweek.com/blog/watch-retired-boeing-727-action-fire-rescue...

Posted by AVIATION WEEK on Friday, 6 November 2015


A big thanks to Roy Remington, Josh Anderson, Jim Gaither, Matt Rogers, and the rest of the Millington Municipal Jetport and the Millington Airport Fire Department for their wonderful assistance in putting this piece together.

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