WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - A federal grant for $719,000 will replace Purdue University Airport's aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle.
Airport director Adam Baxmeyer says eight to 10 incidents, including crashes, happen every year at the airport.
Baxmeyer says the airport is the second busiest in the state. On top of that, Purdue's aviation program has enrolled a record number of freshmen this year.
"Despite all that's going on, students are still coming to school, wanting to learn how to fly and this fire truck is just an added measure of safety," he says. "Hopefully we never have to use it, but if we do, it's here."
Purdue Fire Chief Kevin Ply says the airport's current rescue and firefighting truck is 15 years old and doesn't see much mileage.
"It is a very unique piece of fire apparatus," he says. "At 15-year mark, we're starting to see some mechanical issues, and that's why the recommendation by the FAA is to start thinking about replacing it."
Ply says the vehicle is not your standard fire truck.
"It's designed that the driver can pull up and from inside the cab, they can operate the roof turret, the bumper turrets and put a large volume of foam-water solution or dry chemical agent on an aircraft incident," he says.
The airport saw nearly 13,000 operations in August, most of which were small aircraft piloted by students. Baxmeyer says that's only 400 fewer operations than the volume at Indianapolis International Airport last month.
The truck is also activated any time a large commercial flight takes off or lands. Baxmeyer says that happens about 100 times a year.
"During the athletic season, for football games, we'll typically see 737s or Airbus that can seat 150, 160 people," he says.
The grant is part of $1.2 billion in funding from the United States Department of Transportation, according to a DOT news release. More than $40 million of the money is going to Indiana airports, including those in Frankfort, Monticello and Logansport.