The FAA has opened a new indoor fire research facility in Atlantic City, USA, built to enable its teams to conduct performance tests of potential replacement fire-extinguishing agents. The work conducted in this US$5 million, 2,500 square-foot facility will support research on fluorine-free firefighting foams.
Construction of the building started in November 2018 and FAA researchers began using it for testing this month. The fully enclosed facility will eliminate weather-related variables in testing and enhance data collection capabilities. According to the FAA, the facility will also contain and collect the byproducts of fire testing chemicals and prevent any contamination of the surrounding area and ground water, allowing for more frequent and efficient testing.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directed the agency to stop requiring the use of fluorinated chemicals in aircraft firefighting foams within three years. According to the FAA, fluorine-free foams on the market today do not match the performance of their fluorinated counterparts.
The current firefighting foam is a highly effective combatant to jet fuel fires, but it has also generated concerns over potential environmental and health impacts. The FAA states that perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a potentially hazardous group of chemicals found in current firefighting foams used at airports.