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Plane Safety The Driving Factor At DFW Fire Training Center

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Mireya Villarreal
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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS)This weekend Dallas Fort Worth International Airport will remember a dark day in its history.  Delta Flight 1141 crashed 25 years ago Saturday.  The Boeing 727 was taking off when it bounced three times, then hit the ground.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report found that the crew forgot to set the wing flaps for takeoff.

More than two decades later, the images of the two most infamous crashes in DFW Airport’s history are no less shocking.

In 1995, Delta flight 191 crashed on approach, killing 137 people.

Three years later, Delta Flight 1141 crashed at DFW after takeoff, killing 14 people.

Those crashes are a driving factor for the work that goes on at the DFW Fire Training Research Center.  Opened in 1995, it’s trained more than 15,000 people from 24 countries. They even have a replica of the A-380, one of the largest airplanes in the world.

“We can actually simulate a cockpit fire.  So, if there’s an instrument panel on fire, they can actually put the fire out here,” DFW Battalion Chief, Randall Rhodes, explained.

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

(credit: CBSDFW.COM)

The plane is equipped to put firefighters through all sorts of scenarios, including a fire that starts outside near the landing gear.

“But the main goal of this area here is how to teach firefighters to come up to an aircraft that’s fully engulfed in flames, use the right techniques by hand-line or crash truck, to put out a fire around an aircraft, providing an escape route for all passengers from the aircraft,” Rhodes told the CBS 11 Investigators.

Inside, the training is just as high-tech.  Instructors like David Henderson can now take firefighters inside a plane they’ve never seen in person or create disaster scenarios at their home airport. “It’s really dealing with the realism of the situation instead of just a broad hypothetical kind of context,” he added.

“If you’re sitting in your seat and you’re looking at something on a screen, you’re not making it something that’s a part of you,” Henderson noted.  “You’re not experiencing it. Somebody else is telling you about it. You’re kind of removed.”

Henderson worked with engineers to develop the 3-D simulator that allows trainees to interact with the program right at their desk.  The system was installed back in January and there’s nothing like it in the world.

Inside and outside training events work together to create a powerful combination of information.  And while most people don’t like to think about a plane crashing at DFW International, or any airport for that matter, Chief Rhodes, his crew, and students here think about it every day so you don’t have to.

“They have peace of mind to know the people that are responding to help them in an emergency are thoroughly trained, they’re ready to go, and they know what to do,” Rhodes said.

Airport officials will dedicate a memorial marker in honor of the Delta Flight 1141 victims Saturday.  They’ll place it at Founders Plaza Observation Park, at DFW International, at 10 am.

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