I have pretty big concerns about CFR and their roles in our industry. I also have some very serious concerns about how some of my colleagues have been publicly responding to fire threats recently. Let me supply a bit of information to catch you up. Our industry has recently lost an individual, who was nothing short of iconic, due to the most inexcusably botched CFR response time in the known universe. Someone bleeped up to the point that it cost another human being his life when he could have so easily survived. Needless to say, the issue now has our attention.
Before this all transpired, I had been known to stand down on practice day at several events that did not have CFR in place on practice day or that did not have prepared CFR on site during the show. I have been doing this for a while. I have also been a lead tattle tale for CFR crews that are in different states of unpreparedness during events. This has not always made me the most popular chick at the show. More performers have been choosing to stand down in similar instances since the recent accident. Excuse my bluntness but there is nothing new here. Performers have been burning in their air planes since there have been airplanes to burn in. We can all probably name at least 20 accidents from the top our heads that have involved fire. Some died on impact, some died afterwards due to sustained injuries, some even died before impact due to fire. Wether fire is actually the cause of death or not, you can rest assured that it is usually there with bells on. Because of this, I have a marked respect for the possibility of conflagration.
All this being said, CFR is not required on site by CARS or the FAA on practice day. I do not like flying without CFR on site, therefor I do not. At some point it is like biting off your nose to spite your face. What is more unsafe? Flying in a new box without the benefit of dress rehearsal or flying without the protection offered by CFR? The answer is obviously flying without rehearsal. No one has ever become a better performer by practicing less.There is something else that I know. I know that I have 1 to 2 minutes to get out alive if I survive an impact. It’s doubtful that I can do this without assistance. The implications are sobering.
Most events do have CFR in place on practice day. Others do not. Our industry leaders should be requesting that changes be made to require CFR on practice days. This is a no brainier. It needs to be done. The fact that performers are still quite willing to fly without CFR in place only ensures that we get to keep burning in our aircraft. If a behaviour does not change, can one wonder at the results?
Shortly after the accident, I witnessed performers, air bosses and event support services offer up suggestions to shows of localizing a ready to roll CFR truck at center stage with engines running. This truck would respond solely to air boss command. Every single event complied without hesitation. This is a great start on the road to proactively insuring our own protection.
Some performers are going another direction. They are suggesting that we collectively arm ourselves with fire extinguishers and plan on rescuing ourselves/each other. Again, excuse the bluntness but there is nothing new here either. I have always had a fire bottle within reach and I have always been prepared to come to the rescue. I have never known a performer to not be ready to assist another in need yet, surprisingly, the saves have been few. The reasons for this are obvious: no access, no awareness, no time. We are not there to be CFR. We are there to be performers. This one single role can fill up a day pretty fast …..to the point of not even knowing who or what is flying let alone who is in distress. This is not a solution. We are already doing it and it decidedly does not work.
Do not misunderstand my intent. I will continue to look out for my fellow performers, as I always have but this is not, by a long stretch, a suitable solution to the problem. What we need is for events: military and civilian alike to espouse a much deeper understanding of our needs. We need this same understanding from CFR as well.
Please consider the following : it is entirely possible that the best protection that a performer can offer him or herself and his or her colleagues is to simply say ” No! I will not fly in my prescribed time slot as I feel that CFR is not adequate to the intended flight”. At the end of the day, we need trained professionals with the right equipment doing the jobs that they are qualified to do. Anything else falls woefully short of the mark.