Airport seeks aircraft ­rescue, firefighting vehicle

ESCANABA — Delta County Airport has started the bidding process for a new aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicle, Airport Manager Jeffery Sierpien said. The new vehicle, which is expected to cost nearly $1 million, will be paid for almost entirely through grant funding.

Recently, the airport received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to procure a Class 4 ARFF vehicle that has a water capacity of 1,500 gallons — as much as the airport’s current ARFF vehicle has. The airport’s existing ARFF vehicle has been in use for more than 25 years, and it will be replaced by the new vehicle.

Getting the FAA’s approval for the new vehicle was far from guaranteed, Sierpien said. The FAA’s regulations stipulated the administration would only pay for a 500-gallon ARFF vehicle due to the size of Delta County Airport.

“However, by working closely with the FAA Detroit Airport’s District Office and its FAA Safety & Security Inspector, the (airport) was able to successfully document why a larger 1,500 gallon truck, like our existing one, needed to be stationed at ESC for safety and support of its commercial service flights,” Sierpien said.

He noted the airport’s terrain was a major factor in convincing the FAA of this need.

Sierpien also spoke about the anticipated cost of the replacement vehicle.

“The new ARFF vehicle is expected to cost somewhere around $900,000, with 97.5 percent of that being paid for by federal and state grants,” Sierpien said.

On the federal level, grant funding will come from the FAA. On the state level, funds will come from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Having a 1,500-gallon ARFF vehicle will allow the airport to potentially accommodate larger commercial aircraft in the future.

“If the current commercial airline carrier here in Escanaba decided to go a plane larger than the current CRJ 200 series, the (airport) would be able to provide ARFF services to those aircraft,” Sierpien said.

The new ARFF vehicle will not be arriving at the airport for quite some time. Sierpien said funding for the vehicle is expected this fall, and the truck itself should be delivered in the fall of 2020.

According to Sierpien, the FAA’s approval of a larger ARFF vehicle than its regulations called for is a significant accomplishment for Delta County Airport.

“In the airport world, it’s a big deal to get this approval,” he said.