727 blown-up in the name of security
The National Research Council of Canada Institute for Aerospace Research (Hall 3, C7, D7, D7B, E7 and E7B) has successfully completed a three-day controlled exercise, the first of its kind in Canada, that involved the deliberate demolition of a decommissioned, pressurized Boeing 727 at NRC’s Uplands campus in Ottawa. Participants in the exercise included a number of Canadian security technology developers and emergency response operators.
The test, which involved detonating a bomb concealed in the aircraft’s cargo bay, gave companies a chance to demonstrate their latest security technologies and provided NRC Aerospace with post-blast fractured aircraft structures for research and future reference.
It also simulated a high-risk security environment to test the expertise and capabilities of the participating first-response groups. The NRC installed two labs, one forensic and another for handling the debris, near the explosion site, and 30 post-blast investigators from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND), and the Ottawa police service recovered pieces of the bomb in the debris for examination. The Ottawa Airport Fire Department and Ottawa Fire Services carried out a full response operation to extinguish the subsequent fire.
“The exercise turned out to be of tremendous training value to everyone,” said Ron Gould, NRC Aerospace test coordinator. “For example, trainees that were part of the fire fighter crew now have real experience with a real fire in a real aircraft.”
To gain access to the seat of the fire, airport firefighters used a piercing nozzle; as a result, the post-blast fire was successfully extinguished in 30 minutes. “This once-in-a-lifetime training opportunity allowed our fire department to gain valuable experience,” said François Jacquet, chief of the Ottawa Airport Fire Department. “It also made us realize how quickly fire spreads from a cargo hold into the main cabin.”
NRC Aerospace will study the damaged plane to learn about fractures caused by explosions, as opposed to regular wear and tear– knowledge that could help in future accident investigations. “If we are ever asked to help determine whether an explosive device was involved in the loss of an aircraft, we’ll now have something to refer to,” said NRC Aerospace Structures Group Leader Nick Bellinger.