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Christchurch Airport is using custom-designed VR technology to train its firefighter team

Virtual reality for airport firefighters

A group of airport firefighters is firing up for emergency situations without any aircraft or firefighting gear!

Christchurch Airport is the first in New Zealand to use custom-designed virtual reality (VR) technology for training, using programmes its firefighters have helped shape over recent months.

Art Martinson, the airport’s manager digital solutions and data technology, says the VR training has been developed locally in collaboration with the airport company and its firefighters.

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

Positive responses

Chief fire officer Peter Moore, manager of the airport fire service, 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,” says Peter. 

“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.”

Tim Morris, manager airfield operations, says the airport firefighters are first on the scene of more than 500 emergencies on the airport campus every year. “That includes fires, rescues, alarm activations and hazardous material spills, medical emergencies and aircraft incidents,” Tim says.  “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.”

Tim says the investment in the airport fire service is also an investment in the airport, where safety for everyone on campus is non-negotiable.

Watch how virtual reality is helping train Christchurch Airport’s fire service here

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