High-expansion foam fights hangar fires


The system discharge test for a duration of 1.5 min resulted in a foam depth of 5 ft.

View the full story, including all images and figures, in our monthly digital edition

In September 2008, the Tennessee Air National Guard (TANG) 164th Airlift Wing received one of the U.S. military's most advanced aircraft hangar fire suppression systems to date. The hangar fire protection project was led by architect-engineers Frankfurt Short Bruza (FSB), Oklahoma City; sprinkler design specialist Security Fire Protection (SFP), Memphis, Tenn.; and Tyco Fire Suppression & Building Products (FS&BP), Marinette, Wis. The group was able to move from FSB's prototype layout drawings to a fully tested, installed, and approved system under rigorous customer requirements.

These requirements included Engineering Technical Letter (ETL02-15) guidelines that encompassed every part of the fire suppression system, from getting water to the high-expansion foam generators, to generating the foam and getting it through the pipes to the aircraft. The system had to cover at least 90% of the floor with overlapping blankets within 1 min beneath the largest military aircrafts in the world.

SFP chose Tyco FS&BP's Ansul Jet-X high-expansion foam for the project. The system could service a 75,300-sq-ft maintenance hangar and a 67,700-sq-ft fuel cell/corrosion control hangar, which housed giant Lockheed C-5 Galaxy air transports . At 247 ft long and 222 ft from wingtip to wingtip, C-5s are some of the most difficult aircrafts to protect from fire.

Due to its low water requirements, minimal corrosive effects, and reduced environmental impact, high-expansion foam has become the preferred choice in fire suppression for civilian and military aircraft hangars. In addition, high-expansion foam systems are ideal for the large, open areas of an aircraft hangar. The highly mobile blanket of foam prevents the spread of fire by cooling surrounding surfaces and physically blocking the spread of flames.

To generate the foam in the quantities needed, a combination of Ansul Jet-X 15 and 20 high-expansion foam generators was the answer. Proven in such facilities as petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturing plants, these high-capacity generators can produce as much as 24,000 ft3/min of foam. Tyco FS&BP often assists its customers in obtaining the necessary data to prove the effectiveness of innovative but yet-untested solutions. In the case of SFP's prototype design, Tyco FS&BP located an empty warehouse of the same approximate dimensions of the TANG hangars to measure spread rates (time versus diameter of foam), foam patterns, optimum generator placement, and every other detail needed to establish design criteria.

Jet-X generator installation, system design, and installation ensured maximum efficiency in fluid flow.


SFP also had to ensure that water could flow through piping quickly enough to meet ETL requirements. In standard foam piping design, water reaches the generator through a series of right-angle pipes, always laid out from left to right. Instead, SFP chose a direct-route solution to shorten distances to the generators regardless of the angle, and shaved valuable seconds from delivery times to meet the 1 min delivery criteria. Other challenges that factored into the final design included the possibility of maintenance platforms obstructing foam discharge and sloping floors that could allow foam to drain away from its coverage area. These matters were overcome by carefully calculated sprinkler placement and foam volume.


Results of the final system design were confirmed by TANG and supported by an independent engineering firm, and upon successful acceptance testing, the C-5 hangar design was placed into operation in September 2008. The final production system met all requirements of the ETL and symbolized the perfect blend of product knowledge, a spirit of innovative problem solving, and the willingness to collaborate.

Information provided by Ansul .


At A Glance

The Tennessee Air National Guard 164th Airlift Wing needed a fire suppression system that could manage the wide, open spaces of aircraft hangars, and the presence of massive aircrafts. The Lockheed C-5 Galaxy aircraft holds enough aviation fuel to fill more than six railroad tank cars and is extremely difficult to protect from fire. The performance mandates for fire suppression set forth by the Engineering Technical Letter (ETL02-15) were a challenge for sprinkler design specialists Security Fire Protection.

With Ansul high-expansion foam from Tyco Fire Suppression & Building Products, the suppression system met the ETL requirements of:

  • Coverage of no less than 90% of the floor beneath the projected C-5 silhouette

  • Overlapping blankets of suppression agent

  • Finishing within 1 min of actuation.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.