A big thank you to all the team from Wellington Airport and the Wellington Airport Fire Service crew, for allowing us the amazing opportunity to review their brand new Rosenbauer Panther Fire Truck.
It’s the kind of occasion that only comes around once every twenty years or so. Many fire-fighters come and go without being part of such a significant event, and its an experience our team won’t forget any-time soon. We had the chance to be part of this magical and heroic world by sampling the introduction of two Rosenbauer Fire Engine’s, the finest in the world to Wellington Airport, a project that has been 2 years in the making.
When you see these trucks for the first time, you can’t help but smile. It wouldn’t even look out of place rolling straight off a sci-fi movie set, like some massive armoured troop carrier, mixing hard angular lines with remote controlled turrets. Not gun turrets mind you, but water cannons or monitors as they are referred too, everything about this truck tells you one thing, this is a serious piece of kit designed for single purpose. So serious that these new arrivals to Wellington Airport are the only 2 of their kind in the world. Each order from Rosenbauer is a custom order, with specifications carefully chosen by the local crews to match the individual requirements for their Airport.
As children, many of us played make believe games, choosing to be either the good or bad guys. Many of us have dreamt of being a Fireman at some point. I would bet that the majority would probably say we just wanted to drive a fire truck, however there are a those do it as they want to make a difference and help save lives.
One of these guys is Vinnie Sharp, Wellington Airports Red Watch Crew Chief. Vinnie started as a youngster and has become a veteran of the Wellington Airport, working and training hard through the ranks to be one of the few in charge of safety at the Capitals Airport. He was around when the existing outdated fleet was introduced, and he must have been as happy as a kid on Christmas morning when the new Rosenbauer trucks arrived. He told us that he has been very lucky to be a part of this upgrade as Fire crews will often come and go to never see an upgrade, let alone two…Rosenbauer wanted one thing, to be able to provide the Wellington Airport with the trucks they wanted. To accomplish this they flew out a design team to access Wellington Airport and shortly after invited some of the AFS crew to visit and test drive their trucks in Leonding, Austria. This was where Vinnies many years of experience proved to be an integral part of the upgrade, he and his team worked close with the design team from Rosenbauer, discussing their own work flow and what they have learned from using the existing fleet.
Both the Rosenbauer machines did not come cheap, but they did get a good deal, 2.8 million dollars for the pair, So why buy them ? The existing trucks get an average of 600+ call-outs per year ranging across everything from small cuts to heart attacks. Like any business they have to look to future plans of growth based on current traffic numbers and projection based on figures over the last few years. The amount of aircraft, travellers and destination’s have all increased and with this the Airport has to be well ahead to avoid any bottlenecks or be unable to meet consumers demands. Wellington Airport have laid out a proposed growth plan that will take them all the way to 2030. With more terminals for passenger and cargo aircraft’s and potentially runway extension plan to accommodate larger aircraft’s. As part of this growth they had to have the equipment and facilities to be to support and prepare for everything a growing airport can throw at them. Everyone at Wellington Airport hopes they will never have to use either of these trucks to their full capacity.
Old vs New
The 2 existing Trident Mark 5 fire trucks are almost 20 years old, both were hi-tech and futuristic when new, but will soon be incapable of supporting this growing transport hub. In an emergency everything is time critical. This is where the new trucks come into their own. Carrying 34% more water and a dazzling array of equipment that has been developed since the purchase of the previous trucks. Every seat in the cabin except for the drivers are designed to accommodate the oxygen tanks carried by the fire-fighters without taking it on and off like they had to do in the previous trucks. The introduction of an external start button gains time savings as the crew get into their gear. It fires up the engine, readies all of the monitors by swinging them into position as well as activating the flashing lights. The new trucks have bigger and more powerful engines resulting in and 0-80kph time that is 22% or 8 seconds faster, resulting in a 30 seconds to reach 80kph. While it’s pace isn’t quite that of a Panther in the wild, it can certainly move it’s 36 tonnes in the equivalent way an Elephant charges to protect it’s young…. All of this is done in an effort to reduce the time it takes to respond to an emergency. Working to a 90 second rule, the standard time a fire on an aircraft takes to burn though the hull, every second may mean the difference between life and death.
One thing Vinnie discussed with us what how accommodating Rosenbauer were during the design phase, visiting the team at Wellington Airport to assess their requirements. The AFS crews gave Rosenbauer a lot of feedback on making their own workflow more efficient and introduced some of their own unique features such as a roller hose tray and repositioning of the water inlet to dead space between the two rear wheels. This modification freed up space within the truck for additional storage and safety equipment, a feature the manufacturers have now taken back and implemented into all of their trucks being sent around the globe. The entire cabin is now digital, allowing the driver access to all of the equipment, pumps and values from the drivers seat, which previously required the driver to jump out and manually adjust them.
Trident Mark 5
8V 92T Detroit Diesel
16.1L D16 Volvo Euro 5
540 HP / 402 KW
690 HP / 514 KW
6200l/min @ 1100kpa
100% 3600 I/min @1000kpa
100% 4800 I/min @1000kpa
Main Monitor Throw
60m @ 100%
92m @ 100%
1000 l/m @ 1000 kpa
1000 I/min @1000kpa
Bumper Monitor Throw
6 speed Twin Disc Auto
6 speed Twin Disc Auto
Dry Powder System
2.3kg/s @ 12 bar
2.5 kg/s @ 12 bar
Dry Powder Throw & Height
480 I/min@700 kpa
480 I/min 2700 kpa
The Rosenbauer Panther pumps out a massive amount of water, but just telling you it pumps 4800L a minute gives you no idea on how much or fast these machines pump water, what you need is perspective. The Panther has a 9500 litre water tank which can be emptied in just under 2 minutes, the main monitor (aka water cannon) reaches around 90m (the length of your average football field, or just shy of two Olympic sized swimming pools) with enough pressure to smash the windows of your family sedan. If these figures don’t impress, Vinne also told us that when the airport fire truck is fully pumping they get regular fire service trucks to come and support them. Their primary goal is to refill the Airport fire trucks with water making sure the tanks are never empty. Each water pump on a regular fire service truck is quite a lot smaller so they need to link them together to get enough pressure to keep water in the Panthers tank. It takes 3 regular fire service trucks linked together to just match the 480L a minute that a single Panther delivers.
What do we think ?
We know its not for everyone, it does seat as many as the average people mover, and it can tackle almost any terrain. Its fully loaded, but not with your regular options, water and foam tanks, joystick controller water cannons, and thermal imaging cameras. But there are some downsides, the mileage is not great, its almost two lanes wide and a pain to park in the city. And lets not forget the price, its up there with the likes of the Aston Martin One-77, Bugatti Veyron and the Pagani Huayra. Not surprisingly some of these cars have the same issues around town as the trucks do. But lets face it, the 3 of these cars would be pretty useless in an Airport Emergency Situation. Its simple, the Rosenbauer Panther is a Fire Truck and a pretty awesome one at that, and for that reason alone we crown it 5 out of 5.
Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5
Rear Engine, 6WD, EMS Airport Fire Truck
Wellington Spec – $ 1,400,000 NZD – $2,800,000 for the pair.
16.1L Inline 6 Cylinder Volvo Diesel, 515 kw , 3150 Nm
6-Speed Twin Clutch Automatic
0 – 80 kph
Length x Width x Height
12m x 3.4m x 3.6m
1500 Litres of water, 225 kg of Dry Powder, 6 Personal