NEWS | Sept. 5, 2013

Maintainers' training and instinct saves B-52 aircrew

By Staff Sgt. Amber Corcoran 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Two Airmen from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron put out a fire on the B-52H Stratofortress, and with the assistance of three more Airmen, saved all seven aircrew members Aug. 27 on the flightline here.

At 3 p.m., a B-52 was taxiing to its parking spot after landing. As maintenance crews were working in the area and the crew chief was preparing to receive the aircraft, they noticed a puff of smoke. As the aircraft was finally parking and setting the brakes, the #3 brake caught on fire.

Airman 1st Class Elias Delarosa was the crew chief marshaling the aircraft and along with Staff Sgt. Mark Corral, grabbed the fire bottle and rushed to the aircraft.

"When I saw the fire, my mind immediately raced to the refresher training I had just received earlier that morning," said Delarosa, from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "I was thinking about the acronym that goes along with using the fire bottle and instinct kicked in."

The acronym from the fire portion of the annual maintenance refresher training is P.A.S.S. - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep - and that is exactly what Delarosa did.

"We've all gone through the training, so we know the video well," said Corral, 2nd AMXS. "He did exactly what the video example shows and got down on one knee to control the hose, going through all the motions to sweep the fire."

During this quick transition of tasks, another 2nd AMXS crew chief, Staff Sgt. Billy Cambell, gave the aircrew the emergency signals to shut down the engines and exit the aircraft. The 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production super, Master Sgt. Kevin Rowe and the 2nd AMXS crew chief expediter, Staff Sgt. Brad Davis, assisted the aircrew from evacuating the flight deck.

"When the ground emergency first started happening, the first thing I thought was to get the area safe and set up a cordon before the fire department arrived," said Master Sgt. Kevin Rowe, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. "As Delrosa was situating the fire bottle, we were getting everyone out of the area, getting the crew off the jet and to a safe location and everything else just kind of flowed."

While the first bottle was getting close to empty, both Rowe and Davis rushed to a nearby aircraft to shut down the refuel and evacuate the personnel. They brought an extra fire bottle back to Delarosa and Corral. As they were getting it into position, the fire department arrived and took over the scene.

When the emergency was contained and all personnel were safe, the aircrew and maintenance personnel involved were taken to Flight Medicine, evaluated and released back to duty.

"In events like this, you don't know what's going to happen, you just react," said Rowe. "These guys did exactly what they were supposed to do and I'm very proud of them. Tomorrow, we go on with normal business and a reminder that refresher training is just as important as our daily tasks to accomplish the mission."

Currently, the damages are to the #3 brake and wheel and tire assembly which will need to be replaced. The cost estimate is more than $20,000.

"We as Airmen are faced with a choice- we all think, hope, pray that when it comes to our turn... that we're going to do these heroic things," said Col. Andrew Gebara, 2nd Bomb Wing commander. "We never know though, until we're finally tested and we have to rely on our training and courage just as these Airmen did when they made the choice. These things can get out of control very quickly and this emergency could have easily caused more extensive damage and possibly funerals. On behalf of the aircrew and the men and women of the bomb wing, we thank you for making the choice."