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Duke Field fuel cell hangar fire suppression test marks final steps towards renovation completion

  • Published
  • By Nicole King
  • 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The 919th Special Operations Wing and 492nd SOW will soon have a newly renovated fuel cell hangar ready for use. Civil engineers and contractors performed a fire suppression test last week marking one of the final steps for project completion.

“We are excited to get in this thing,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Payton, director of strategic requirements with the 492nd SOW. “Right now, if we do fuel cell maintenance in one of the other hangars, it actually shuts it down because we are not allowed to open tanks and do fuel cell maintenance with anything else in them.”

The fuel cell hangar renovations included improvements for the heating ventilation and air conditioning system, electrical work, a mechanical room update and adjustment of the fire suppression system to accommodate the C-146A Wolfhound. During renovations, fuel cell work was done in other hangars.

The new fire suppression system uses high expansion foam that is fluorine and surfactant free, with a higher ratio of air to water in the finished product making it more environmentally friendly than low expansion foam. This new system replaced the low expansion foam system that was previously in place.

“Before the renovation, the fuel cell hangar protected the airplanes using a fire fighting system called aqueous film-forming foam,” said Lazaro Martin, a facilities operations specialist with the 919th SOW. “The AFFF system was very effective fighting fuel fires, but it was also very toxic. The new system is basically water mixed with soap to make a lot of air bubbles to smother and fight the fire. After a high expansion foam dump, the next day all the soap bubbles are gone and the hangar floor is ready to be squeegeed up.”

During the fire suppression test, contractors examined the concentration levels of the foam, flow rate and speed at which the foam filled the hangar. They also tested the visual and auditory alarms in the system.

“The new hangar will reduce the amount of aircraft downtime,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. David Dean, accessories flight chief with the 919th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron. “They are going to have all the tools and all of the necessary safety equipment in the hangar, so on average, they will probably save 10 to 15 hours of aircraft downtime.”

When the fuel cell offices move into the newly renovated hangar, space will be freed up in another building for an innovation lab. Innovation resources are currently fragmented in different locations around Duke, so the consolidation will provide a one stop shop for innovation projects.

The hangar is scheduled to be ready for use in early 2021.