APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Stakeholders officially dedicated a new state-of-the-art training facility for aircraft rescue firefighters located at the Appleton International Airport.
It started out as a crazy idea.
“I didn’t understand it at first, you should have just told me we’re going to build a big model airplane and light it on fire,” said U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher, remembering his initial thoughts when airport officials approached him about helping make this idea a reality.
“It took a little bit to convince people that we’re going to build an airplane and then light it on fire a bunch of times,” said Appleton International Airport Director Abe Weber.
Six years later, that crazy idea is now a reality. Local, state, and national leaders from both parties coming together to secure funds for an Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Training Center. The facility cost $14 million and both state and federal funding paid for it.
“It’s a commonsense win-win-win situation,” explained U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.
The facility is part of a new program at Fox Valley Technical College. Instructors can simulate real-life scenarios firefighters would face in emergency situations if an airport fire occurred.
The training center also features the world’s only Boeing 777 aircraft training prop.
Facilities like this are rare in the United States and officials hope it will attract firefighters from all over the country. Not just students who want to be part of the program through Fox Valley Technical College, but people who are already firefighters but may need to complete additional training or recertify on something.
“We think that firefighters from around the globe are going to arrive here, do the training, go to our hotels and our restaurants and just generally support our local economy,” explained Weber.