COLET SVD - HyperTek - Crash Trucks

HyperTecAirplane disasters are certainly horrifying. But more people survive a ground crash than you might think. A lot of that has to do with how fast fire trucks can get to the crash scene. We found one at the Atlanta International Airport that shares more in common with a formula one race car than with your standard hook and ladder fire truck.

Each day in the U.S., fifteen to twenty thousand flights take off and land routinely. Half a billion passengers each year come and go without incident. All in all, a place like Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport is a pretty safe place to be.

But wherever there's fuel and friction, fires can happen. When they do, the Atlanta Airport Fire Department responds with a tactical firefighting tour de force: the COLET K-15 Jaguar. "We came out to design the fastest, most efficient vehicles possible to get to the crash scene as fast as we can and put out the fire as quickly as we can," says Raffie Colet.

Atlanta's K-15 Jaguar is a one-of-a-kind prototype vehicle built by JRI, Incorporated of Newark, California. It was designed from the ground up to radically outperform any conventional crash truck.

With a revolutionary design and advanced electronics, the K-15 Jaguar is simply faster, safer and more dependable than any vehicle in its class. "I know in my heart that if I go to a plane crash today, this truck will do what I need to do to take care of those people," says Ronald Davis of the Atlanta Fire Department. "We only have so many minutes to get these people out and do what we're going to do."

In an airplane fire, every second can mean lives saved. With a 580 horsepower supercharged, turbo diesel power plant, the K-15 can accelerate zero to fifty miles per hour in less than eighteen seconds. But all that speed won't matter if it can't be controlled, so the Jaguar incorporates a unique, active-reactive suspension system integrated with a solid-unit monocoque chassis.

If that sounds like the design principle for a formula one race car, that's because it is. "With a normal type frame rail chassis, you're forced to have your water tank high in the air and have your center of gravity well over eight feet in the air," says Colet. "We're able to integrate the water tank into the structure of the entire vehicle, lightening the overall vehicle itself, and lowering the center of gravity to about four to five feet."

There are no steel springs here. The 1,500 gallon water tank rides low and balanced on a computer-controlled cushion of air and hydraulic fluid. Unlike conventional trucks that tend to be top-heavy and prone to roll over, every on- or off-road driving condition is compensated for immediately, allowing the truck to get to the fire faster.

The front end of the truck was designed for optimum visibility and proper positioning beneath a jet. A high pressure nozzle on a telescoping boom can extend into the fuselage to extinguish a cabin fire.

The cab on this truck more than resembles the cockpit of an Apache attack helicopter. In fact, it incorporates some of the same technology. A global positioning system tracks the crew's exact position anywhere on or around the airport, which could be helpful in coordinating rescue efforts.

A forward-looking infrared camera enhances safety when driving in near zero visibility conditions. "When you are out in smoke...and then if you got fog combined together, you can't see your hand in front of your face. This infrared will show us any hot object that's out there so we can locate where it is," adds Ronald Davis.

The Atlanta Fire Department has ordered ten more Jaguars, including a newly designed four-thousand-gallon model. Every advance shaves seconds off rescue times and makes the skies a little safer.

More and more major airports are adopting the Jaguars. In the meantime, airlines are trying to eliminate crashes altogether and that's why older planes like the 737's are being retired.

>> Video <<  (Video Courtesy of SFGate and HyperTek)

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