Raleigh-Durham Airport Fire-Rescue History


Last updated November 15, 2020

Recent changes:

  • Added Marion as builder of body for 1969 crash truck.
  • Added delivery and in-service dates for new CFR 1.
  • Added references to 1957 pick-up, purchased as replacement for 1952 dry-chemical unit.
  • Moved all linked crash information to new site at legeros.com/history/aviation/.
  • Restored a number of incidents, notably crashes and hard landings with minor or no injuries, or minor damage.

1939, North Carolina General Assembly authorizes construction the airport, through the chartering of the Raleigh-Durham Aeronautical Authority, comprised of the City of Raleigh, City of Durham, Wake County, and Durham County.vt

1941, Just after workers break ground, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. The federal government takes over the facility for use during World War II. Nine days later, work begins around the clock on Raleigh-Durham Army Air Base (December 1941) vt


1941, Raleigh-Durham Army Air Field becomes operational. Has barracks and three runways. Serves as training facility for Army Air Corps. (May 1, 1943)

1943, Raleigh-Durham Airport opens. Eastern Airlines is permitted use of the airfield. First commercial flight is DC-3, southbound from New York to Miami. (May 1, 1943) rdu-ws

1945, Raleigh-Durham Aeronautical Authority is renamed Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority.

1946, Raleigh-Durham Airport is returned to the airport authority. The airport has 1,223 acres of land.

1947, fire protection needs noted in October 26 edition of the Durham Morning Herald. "One of the crying needs" upon close inspection of the airport is "provision for firefighting facilities." There's no apparently fire equipment at the field, and the airport relies upon units from Raleigh or Durham. Nor are there personnel trained for fighting fires. "The problem is not in securing the actual equipment but in maintaining trained personnel necessary for the work." The Field Manager is quoted as saying he's "negotiating" for a "crash truck and a fire truck" that would be manned by "present field personnel" as a "step in the right direction." (October 1947)dmh26oct47

1947, the airport is described in the prior October 1947 story as having three runways (one or more are 4,500-foot long), 90-foot wide taxiways, instrument landing equipment for ILS approaches, and a 75-foot control tower. The small terminal has 60 seats in the waiting room, and a restaurant that seats 32 people. The terminal ramp can accommodate six airplanes at one time. Two airlines serve the airport, with 21 flights daily, carrying passengers, freight, and mail. Navy and Army Air Corps planes also use the field, along with private pilots and students using the three flight schools at the field. In August 1947, a total of 6,844 lands were made, including 1,506 air carriers, 88 Navy planes, 41 AAF plans, 659 civilian itinerant, and 4,550 civilian local. (October 1947)dmh26oct47

1948, the Army Air Corps ceases using the airport as a training facility. However, a military presence either remains or returns, as a National Guard hangar is operating at the airport by July 31, 1951. (January 1, 1948.)dmh31jul51


1951, Air Force Sabre fighter crash lands. Aircraft bursts into flames after striking concrete runway at 120 miles an hour. Second Lieutenant Coy Austin springs from cockpit of burning craft after plowing almost 4,500 feet along runway. He is uninjured, having made the emergency landing due to engine failure at 35,000 feet 20 miles north of Raleigh. The plane lands wheels-up and friction ignites two wing-tip fuel tanks. Airport firefighters save the aircraft from a total loss (April 1, 1951) no02apr51

1953, FATAL, Army C-47 transport crashes in Crabtree Park. Just before midnight on January 2, 1953, an Army C-47 transport plane crashed in Crabtree Park while attempting an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport. Read narratives. (January 2, 1953)rt03jan53, no04jan53, no05jan53

1955, apparatus notes. Fire equipment consists of:

  • 1946 International/Bean pumper, likely former Army Class 125, which were originally equipped with John Bean multi-piston pump, 50-60 GPM at 600 PSI, 300 gallons water, 20 gallons foam.
  • 1952 Chevrolet pick-up with skid-mounted dual-agent system, 400 pounds dry-chemical. (October 1, 1955)oh, faj, ftaw, dmh01oct55

1955, the first terminal opens. Fire department is described as:

  • Led by R. S. Page "of the Leesville Road."
  • Page and three others are paid.
  • Three men provide twenty-four hour protection, and work alternating shifts: Herman C. Porter of Durham, Tom Lynn of Neuse, and Ural Wright of Chapel Hill.
  • One man "can always be found on duty" and "when an emergency call is sounded, it's his job to see that the equipment gets to the right spot at the shortest possible time." They "take charge of the volunteers" in the event of an emergency. They also have "regular jobs at the airport."
  • Rest of department is volunteer, members who "hold other jobs at the airport." One member is Bill Price of Eastern Air Lines ground operations.
  • "Crash crews" hold frequent/periodic drills.
  • Apparatus stored in temporary quarters, in "the hangar building next to the new terminal building."
  • Future plans "call for a separate building to be erected to house the fire-fighting equipment."
  • (October 1, 1955)dmh01oct55, no??sep55

1955, Morrisville Fire Department organized. Future mutual aid responder to airport.

1950s, mid (?), fire station building constructed. Located southwest of airport terminal, on then- or later-named South Ramp. One-story structure with three bays and office space on northeast side. See maps & diagrams. Built perhaps 1956 to 1958, based on fixtures and architectural style.oh

1957, apparatus purchase. New Chevrolet three-quarter ton pick-up, painted safety yellow, and with dry-chemical equipment moved (or replaced from?) the 1952 unit, which was repurposed as a utility truck for the airport. (July 1957)ds16jul57, ds17jul57

1959 - News story in the July 23, 1959, issue of the Durham Sun mentions that the National Guard also has a fire truck at the airport, a "$28,000 water-foam truck" that it proposes to replace with a larger and more expense ($62,000) one" for use at a proposed new facility. The story adds that the National Guard is seeking a 40-year lease on another 20 acres of land at the airport, to "set up an Aviation Company there." The airports fire equipment is described as "two small crash trucks" that "are manned by volunteer personnel." (July 1959)dmh23jul59



1961, Airport Authority sends letter to Wake County Board of Commissioners, stating that they have "taken cognizance of the inadequacy of Airport fire-crash equipment to deal with a large aircraft fire disaster" and are seeking to remedy the situation. They presently own "one pickup truck equipped with a dry chemical unit and one small foam truck," which are limited to "small fire-crash situations." But they are "without current funds to acquire heavy fire-crash equipment" due to their funds committed to retiring their revenue bond debt, and that "financial burden of airport improvement and development will undoubtedly prevail and encumber airport funds for several years." Thus they request the letter be sent to Col. David L. Harbee, Director of Civil Defense, to see if there's any "federal surplus participation" that "could be used in this sort of emergency." (February 17, 1961)wcboc minutes, 20feb61

1961, County Civil Defense Director sends letter to Wake County Board of Commissioners, nothing that new firefighting equipment "cannot be procured through civil defense on a government matching funds basis, and their only chance to be of help in this request would be to procure this equipment through the Surplus Property Depot, as they have been issuing some fire fighting equipment for the County's rural fire departments and that he will attempt to justify its issuance for the Raleigh-Durham Airport. (February 24, 1961)wcboc minutes, 06mar61

1962, fire protection equipment described in February 6 edition of the Durham Sun. The airport has two pieces of equipment:

  • "Small capacity foam truck"
  • Pick-up truck with 600-gallong (pound?) dry-chemical tank, with a "five or six minute duration for retarding the spread of fire."

Also available are two fire trucks at the National Guard hangar:

  • "Walters type 1500 foam truck" which can also pump water.
  • "Medium-sized water truck."

The Airport Manager is quoted as saying "we believe that we are in pretty good shape" to handle fires. He says there are at least two men on duty at all times, to serve as firemen, plus "other terminal personnel on hand" where there's more air traffic and more planes landing. Their fire equipment is housed in a building, which was "paid for by local funds." (Versus by federal funds, which the federal program at the time now includes.) He notes "we were one of the first airports to put up a fire-crash building" to house the equipment. "We have led in this through the years" and "where it has had to be used, it has been used successfully on small craft." He adds that the FAA is making a study of firefighting needs (at the airport?) and "there probably will be some changes in the recommendations." The context of the story is a recent crash at the Greensboro-High Point airport that killed all seven men aboard an Air Force plane. (February 6, 1962)ds06feb62

1963, 930th [?] Air Force Reserve Recovery Squadron relocates to airport, after operating out of a former USO building on Morris Street in Durham. The squadron has been conducting part of their training operations at the airport for the past year. They occupy a building southwest of the US Weather Bureau station, in part of a space that was formerly occupied by Carolina Air Traders. They also staff a crash truck, cited in earlier articles as a "Walters type 1500 foam truck." (July 1963)ds15jul53

1964, Durham Highway Fire Department organized. Future mutual aid responder to airport.

1964, twin-engine private plane crashes on take-off. Aircraft is "completely wrecked" after coming down in a "sandy area" past the runway. Four residents from Silver Springs, Maryland, escape injury, breaking windows in craft and climbing out. After walking "about a mile, " they reach the runway and flag down a United Airlines plane "ready to take-off. " At about the same time, a search party "organized at the airport terminal" reaches them reports the February 21 edition of The Raleigh Times. (February 21, 1964) 

1965, commercial jet services begins with Eastern Airlines Boing 727 service.

1965, FATAL, private plane crashes into lake at Umstead State Park while attempting landing at airport. Five people killed after landing in freezing waters about two miles south of airport. Searching party finds body of woman floating near the plane. Crash occurs between 10:30 and 11 p.m. Plane is found in middle of 55-acre lake, submerged except for portion of tail. (February 25, 1965) no26feb65

1965, FATAL, one-person rotorcraft crashes. Pilot is killed during low-altitude, high-speed maneuver as part of final day of third annual Popular Rotocraft Association fly-in. Aircraft crashes around noon from some 20 feet off the ground. (June 27, 1965) no28jun65

1966, FATAL, one-person rotorcraft crashes on east end of east-west runway. Pilot is killed instantly when aircraft plummets an estimated 1,500 feet. Accident occurs about 11:30 a.m. (October 22, 1966) no23oct66

1967, fire department summary from Report on the Master Plan for Raleigh-Durham Airport (July 15, 1967):

  • Fire-Crash-Rescue.
  • The Airport Authority maintains personnel on the airport 24 hours daily. These men are trained in the theory of Fire-Crash-Rescue and the use of dry chemicals, foam, and CO2 equipment.
  • The equipment available consists of a pick-up truck carrying 600 pounds of dry chemical and a pump truck carrying 300 gallons of water than can be converted to foam. it is planned to acquire a "light water-dry chemical" truck in the future.
  • Crash crews are composed of Airport Authority personnel who are instructed daily in the use of the equipment and with life fire at frequent intervals. V
  • various personnel from the airlines volunteer when emergencies occur; however, arrangements to give these people training in theory and use of equipment is in direct ratio to the frequency of emergency or "crash calls."

1967, passenger plane suffers nose wheel collapse. United Airlines Viscount spews "sheet of flame" from front of plane on landing as it skids to a halt, reports the November 29 edition of The Raleigh Times. Crash crews extinguish flames immediately. Four person are treated at Wake Memorial Hospital, including one woman who suffers a skinned knee from using the canvas escape chute. The incident occurs about 9 p. m. The flight is inbound from Washington D.C. (November 28, 1967)

1968, FATAL, twin-engine private plane crashes on take-off, crashing about a half-mile away from the front of the main terminal. One passenger killed; two others injured. Incident occurs about 12: 20 a.m. Aircraft is headed west and crashes about 2,300 feet from the end of the runway, having veered around 750 feet to the left. (December 16, 1968) no17dec68

1969, apparatus bid awarded. Contract awarded to Southeastern Safety Appliance Company of Charlotte, low bidder of $32,256.50, for a new dry-chemical/light-water crash truck. One of three bids received on July 30. Durham Morning Herald story says that the current crash truck "employs dry chemicals and a small mobile foam generator" and has been "successful in fighting two blazes resulting from non-commercial plane crashes in recent years." However, the truck's success was "due more to the speed and efficiency of the emergency crew" than to the equipment on the truck. And the Airport Manager, speaking at an earlier Airport Authority meeting, emphasized the "necessity of speed in handling airport emergencies" and said "the intense heat generated in a jet crash could kill occupants of the plane in less than a minute." (August 5, 1969)dmh06aug69

1969, apparatus delivery: 1969 International/Marion/Ansul Magnum 480 crash truck with 1350 pounds of Purple K dry chemical and 200 gallons of light water. Placed in service as CT-2. (September 1969) faj, oh

1969, the airport's fire rating changes upon delivery of new crash truck. Rating is raised from "B" to "A" for three weeks, then drops back to "B" when an Eastern Air Lines DC-8 lands. Airport Manager Henry Road tells Raleigh Times in September 24, 1969, story that "ideas are being kicked around to bring the airport back to an 'A' rating, but so far everything is being 'played by ear." New crash truck is operated by "sales service personnel" at the airport who are trained on the new truck. The "old equipment" will be retained. That includes "converted foam generator World War II brush fire fighter, 650 pounds of dry chemical, and Purple K fire extinguishers on all airport vehicles." (September 24, 1969)rt


1970, FATAL, twin-engine private plane crashes south of Interstate 40. All five passengers killed while aircraft attempts landing in fog. Late-night crash site is not discovered until morning. (April 2, 1970)

1970, summary of fire department from Feasibility Studies Raleigh-Durham Airport,  June 1970:

  • Safety equipment available at the Airport includes:
  • Ansul 480 Mangum light water/Purple k truck with a capacity of 1,350 pounds Purple k plus 200 gallons light water
  • crash truck with 300 gallons of water and 30 gallons of foam
  • pick-up truck with 600 pounds of Purple K
  • 5,000 gallon tractor-trailer foam generator now under construction and modification.

1970, circa, apparatus acqusition: 1959 Walter Class 1500 crash truck, 1500/950/200, former US Army. Placed in service as CT-3. Almost certainly was the Walter Class 1500 crash truck formerly operated by the National Guard, and housed at their hangar since at least 1962.

Notes military fire historian Ted Heinbuch: In the early 1960s, the Army had an excess of these trucks. They were offered to the Air Force, which declined due to the large amount of money it would take to bring the trucks up to USAF standards. Notes Walter history book author Mark Simiele, many of the retired trucks were sold to civilian airports in like-new condition.

1971, FATAL, single-engine private plane collides with Eastern Airlines passenger jet southwest of airport. Both people aboard Cessna 206 are killed when McDonnell Douglas DC-9 descends on top of it, while on final approach to Runway 5. Accident occurs at 1:46 p.m. Cessna crashes. Flight #898 carries 23 passengers and four crew. NTSB determines probable cause as "inadequacy of air traffic control facilities and services in flight paths of the two aircraft and the configurations physically limited each flight crew's ability to see and avoid the other aircraft." (December 4, 1971)ability to see and avoid the other aircraft." (December 4, 1971)no, ntsb/asn

1971, apparatus note: Airport Authority agrees on purchase of $6,000 dry-chemical unit, after Airport Manager Henry K. Boyd Jr. says the current unit "would have to be completely rebuilt." He cites same as fifteen to eighteen years old. And that the unit's "supply of fire extinguish material" was exhausted after a fatal crash at the airport on December 4. The new equipment would hold 450 pounds of dry-chemical (incorrectly cited as foam) and 50 gallons of light water. It would be "spring equipment" and "essentially it would be the first piece of equipment to get there" at a crash." The unit was described as "small and less expensive to operate than larger fire fighting vehicles." The equipment could be delivered in 30 to 40 days, and could be mounted on the pick-up currently carrying the older unit." (Either 1952 Chevy pick-up or 1957 Chevy pick-up.) The older unit might be salvaged and used for back-up equipment or for training purposes." During the meeting, authority members asked Boyd how long it took "crash equipment" to respond in emergencies. His goal was within 30 seconds, for crews to be on the runway after "emergency signals." He cited a recent landing with a forward gear collapse, and the pilot's report that crash crews reached his craft within 37 seconds. (December 7, 1971)dmh08dec71

1972, equipment note:

  • New skid-mounted dual-agent dry-chemical system delivered, mounted on current CT-1, a 1957 Chevy pick-up. Capacity of 450 pounds of dry-chemical and 50 gallons of light water
  • Older skid system with 400 pounds (alternate capacity of 600 pounds) of dry chemical is mounted on a military surplus trailer. (Early 1972)

1972, single-engine private plane crash lands on rural road near airport. The nose gear of the Cessna 182 is torn off and the plane flips on its back and becomes tangled in some power lines, about ten feet off the paved road. Both occupants are transported to the hospital by State Highway Patrol helicopter, which located the crash site at 12: 35 p. m. about two miles northeast of the airport. (April 13, 1972)no14apr72

1973, apparatus delivery: 1973 Walter CB3000 crash truck, purchased new, and placed in service as CT-4. Capacity 3000 gallons water and 500 gallons ARFF foam. Equipped with dual driving engines, dual transmissions, and dual 750 GPM pumps. Truck can be driven with both: pump with one and roll with other, or pump and roll with both. Not equipped with any mufflers. Diesel engines are Detroit 6V92s (?), with 460 HP. Cost $144,000, with 82 percent of funding from FAA. The truck is purchased to comply with new FAA safety requirements for airporst. (July 1973) oh, rt08aug73, ds08aug73,  

1973, demonstration of new crash truck is conducted for media with a 5,000 square-foot pit filled with aviation fuel that's ignited. Flames boil "more than 100 feet in the air" as the new 58,000 pound truck "growled, roared, and rumbled" nearly to the edge of the pit. The truck demonstrates spraying both foam and light water. Truck was delivered in mid-July and has "undergone some testing and fine tuning." William E. Pegram is in charge of all fire equipment at the airport. (August 8, 1978)rt08aug73

1973, Airport Authority authorizes development of emergency medical procedures, to "ensure proper treatment for victims of a possible aviation disaster." Author member Dr. Kenneth A. Podger proposes the procedures be developed "in conjunction with Triangle area doctors and hospitals." The airport's emergency procedures, which were recently updated to meet FAA regulations, "deal only with getting injured persons to an ambulance." The new procedures are needed for "'physicians input on what happens after a patient is in the ambulance.'" A committee is created to study the needed. Consulting with officials at hospitals in all three cities in recommended. (December 18, 1973)dmh18dec73

1974, fourth apparatus bay added onto fire station to accommodate new crash truck. Two-story section in rear with small classroom on ground floor and foam storage on second floor. Bid accepted for "building to house the airport's new fire crash truck" awarded by airport authority on December 4, 1973. Contracts would follow, contingent on approval from FAA, because federal funds would be used in several phases of the awarded projects, which aligned with the airport's plans to build a new runway in several years. The federal grant was awarded on January 30, 1974. Contracts had already been taken for the work, which was expected to be "well underway in just a few weeks." The airport improvements included "expansion of the fire-crash building to accommodate a new fire crash truck." (Spring? 1974)ds05dec73, ds30jan74

1975, White Oil Company in downtown Raleigh burns. Flames threaten 140,000 gallons of fuel oil after truck backfire ignites fumes about 10:15 a.m. Blaze is brought under control in about an hour. Crash truck from Raleigh-Durham airport is requested, but later turned back while en route. (July 10, 1975)

1975, Eastern Air Lines passenger jet crashes short of runaway. About 8:00 p.m., the Boeing 727 strikes the ground approximately 282 feet short of runway 23, bounces up onto the runway, and slides to stop 4,150 feet past runway threshold. Accident occurs during instrument landing system (ILS) approach during heavy rain showers. Aircraft is substantially damaged, with belly of plane caving in and the flaps sheared off of both wings. Landing gear apparently collapsed upon landing. Of 139 persons aboard craft, eight are injured, one serious. NTSB determines probably cause as "pilot's failure to execute a missed approach when he lost sight of the runway environment in heavy rain below decision height." After a single call to the "Wake County Communications Center," five fire trucks, six ambulances, "airport security men," sheriff's deputies, and state troopers arrive within minutes. (November 12, 1975) ntsb, no13nov75, no30aug76

1975, former Cary Fire Chief Terry Edmundson hired as training officer.oh, rt02jun77

1975, circa, airport apparatus all painted lime-yellow (not safety yellow). oh

1976, fire department featured in News & Observer story:

  • Fire Chief is Terry Edmundson.
  • Twenty-two members, including Edmundson.
  • "Watch crew" works twenty-four hours a day.
  • Five men work each fourteen-hour shift, working two days and taking the next two off.
  • Train at least one hour every day.
  • They're trained in first aid and are equipped with "oxygen, 75 stretchers, and a first aid cabinet capable of treating more than 100 people."
  • Check every truck, and every piece of equipment daily.
  • They also have additional airport duties, performing refueling operations.
  • Four times a year, they have "hot drills" where they extinguish aviation fuel at a training pit near the runway.
  • Once a year, the FAA sends an inspector, who triggers a test alarm, to ensure that their trucks can reach any point in the runway within three minutes.
  • Their slowest time has been one minute and 55 seconds. "But that's for the biggest of their five trucks."
  • Emergency plan has two phases:
    • Phase one - Five fire trucks, six ambulances.
    • Phase two - Several more fire trucks, fifteen more ambulances. (August 30, 1976)no

1977, The Raleigh Times features front page story about need for more training at the fire department.

  • "Chief: RDU fire protection lacking - Training of firemen called inadequate" is the headline.
  • Writer Dudley Price conducts series of lengthy interviews with "fire crash rescue manager" Terry Edmundson
  • Expresses grave concerns that his twenty-two part-time fighters are inadequately trained to deal with a major air disaster.
  • Notes that personnel also function as linemen who fuel and service private airplanes, something not required of firefighters at other similar-size airports. (The distance from the fueling location to the firehouse is as far as 100 yards away, notes a June 14 story in the Raleigh Times.)
  • He attempts to train the firefighters for two to five hours each week, but often cannot due to the "men's duties servicing planes as linemen."
  • In addition to lacking training, Edmondson says the department's communication system is inadequate. They need "walkie-talkies" to supplement the radios in the four fire trucks which can only reach the control tower. "Firemen can't communicate between trucks until controllers finish directing the planes."
  • He has requested additional radios that can "alert fire and rescue units [from] other towns and direct ambulances to where they are most needed in the event of an air disaster." He's tried to convince the airport manager for two years to purchase the radios.
  • He cites the airport's disaster plan, which has airport officials contacting hospitals and fire and rescue agencies in nearby towns. "The entire operation would be coordinated by air traffic controllers in the RDU tower, not by firemen."
  • Also says that the firefighters should have medical skills beyond the basic first aid required by the FAA. He thinks they should have EMT training, "know how to operate resuscitators," and "train more on a piecemeal basis on basic fire fighting techniques and fire situations."
  • Some of the members have these skills, he notes. Four have EMT training, twelve are schooled in triage, and Sixteen can operate resuscitation equipment.
  • He adds that the department has been affected by turnover, nine of whom have quit since last August. Pay ranges from $6,841 to $9,168 per year.
  • The the airport was certified by the FAA on March 22, and that airport fire departments served by major airlines are required only to meet FAA and not state or local requirements.
  • They are required to have adequate fire and medical equipment, that firefighters know how to operate the equipment, and have basic first aid and some firefighting training. The exact amount of training is not specified.
  • Airport fire trucks must also be able to respond to the midpoint of the furthest runway from the firehouse within three minutes.
  • The story also compares the fire departments at the airports in Charlotte and Greensboro, which both have full-time firefighters. They have better communications equipment, better training, and higher pay. Both are city or county operations, unlike Raleigh-Durham's, which is operated by the airport. They are also the largest airports in the state, by airline traffic volume.
  • Greensboro's airport fire department has been full-time since 1968, and has a twenty-one person department. It's operated by Guilford County. Each member voluntarily takes the eighty-five hour EMT program, can operate resuscitators, and has ten hours of firefighting skills training each week. They also have a mock airline made of two 10,000 gallon oil tanks, which are "loaded with dummies" and set ablaze. They train on that prop three times a year. They earn $8,916 to 11,184 per year.
  • Charlotte's airport fire department has been full-time since 1958, using city firemen to operate Air National Guard Equipment. They have thirty-three members, and access to six-channel radios for requesting help from Charlotte, and even "directing ambulances in the event of a crash." Their training is the same as all others in the city, plus special ARFF training. They're required to study firefighting skills for twelve hours every twelve days. They have four gasoline drills per year, among other drills. They earn $8,892 to $11,336 per year. (June 2, 1977) rt

1977, reactions of the Airport Authority are reported in the following day's Raleigh Times. Two members call for an "investigation in charges that the part-time firemen at the airport lack adequate training and equipment to combat a major air disaster." They and other authority members are not aware of the issues (and react with surprise), and will request a full report at their next meeting. The authority's chairman is cited as satisfied with the fire department, and they've "done a pretty good job" in the "two or three times we've had emergencies." There has never been a major crash at the airport, the story notes. Though the airport has funded nearly $4 million for a planned runway expansion, they can't afford a full-time fire department, which would cost $350,000 to $400,00 per year. "We can't afford to pay firemen to just sit and wait for a plane to crash," says one member. The Airport Manager defends the department as adequate, and meeting minimum FAA standards. In November 1975, note members, the crash landing of a Boeing 727 saw airport firemen on scene within sixty seconds. A spokesman for the four major airlines that serve the airport says he's also satisfied with the fire department. (June 3, 1977)rt

1977, a pair of front page article appears on the Raleigh Times by Dudley Price:

  • "RDU firemen need training - Double Duty"
  • The county Director of Emergency Preparedness agrees with the need for more training, notably EMT training.
  • The fire chiefs of Raleigh and Cary also agree that the airport firefighters need EMT training.
  • EMT training is being given to all Raleigh firemen, and Cary is halfway through training all of its firefighters.
  • The Fire Chief cites that it takes ten minutes for the nearest ambulance in Cary to reach the airport. They can help "get the patient started toward stabilizing while help is on the way."
  • "Disaster plan rarely tested - Help nearby"
  • Hundreds of area firefighters, rescue workers, and policemen from surrounding communities within minutes.
  • However, plan hasn't been tested since September 1975.
  • The plan needs to be tested more often, says the county Director of Emergency Preparedness.
  • FAA requires that the plan be tested only once.
  • Responding fire departments would be Cary, Morrisville, Bethesda, and Parkwood.
  • Responding rescue squads would be Cary, Apex, Raleigh, Durham, and Parkwood.
  • In event of disaster, the airport manager or designate would summon groups based on severity. "Fire trucks from Morrisville could be on the scene in ten minutes."
  • Hospitals would also be alerted: Wake Medical Center, Durham General Hospital, Rex Hospital, Mary Elizabeth Hospital, Duke Hospital, the Veteran's Hospital, and Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill.
  • The plan was implemented on a limited basis in November 1975, when a Boeing 727 crash landed. Within ten minutes of the plan landing short on the runway, twelve ambulances were at the scene. Then fire trucks were summoned from Morrisville, and ambulances from Cary took six people with minor injuries to the hospital.
  • The Airport Manager said that they were planning to test their plan again this summer. (June 4, 1977)rt

1977, another front page article appears in the Raleigh Times.

  • "Only two tend RDU night crash-rescue - 'Bare minimum' crew surprise to many"
  • While eight firefighters are normally on duty during daylight operations, only two people are working between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • During that time, nine commercial airliners arrive and department and about ten private planes land.
  • Sometimes only one firefighter is actually at the firehouse as the other must go on patrol to keep deer off the runway and perform other duties such as replace burned out runway lights.
  • This is contrasted to the eleven firefighters on-duty around the clock at Charlotte's Douglas Airport and the seven firefighters maintaining similar shifts at the Greensboro/Winston-Salem Regional Airport.
  • Airport manager insists in an interview that three people work at night. The Airport Authority Chairman is surprised, and thought that nine members are on duty at night.
  • FAA certification inspector in Atlanta characterizes the staffing as a "bare minimum."
  • Two person night staffing has been present since at least October 1975.
  • Eight are usually on duty during the day. Four work in the evening until 9:00 p.m., with two remaining until 6:00 a.m. The last commercial flight lands at 11:37 p.m.
  • Additional night firemen are assigned, when unusual numbers of private or chartered flights are scheduled. (June 13, 1977) rt

1977, Airport Authority members express concern about "conflicting accounts" regarding effectiveness of fire department. Member J. Willie York, citing stories read in The Raleigh Times, moves to hire retired Raleigh Fire Chief Jack Keeter to independently review the airport's crash-fire-rescue capabilities. Authority members unanimously agree to hire Keeter for a fee of about $35 an hour. "They've solved it to their satisfaction," says one member of the airport's administrators reaction to the claims of deficits, "but not to my satisfaction." Keeter is serving his second term as a member of the Raleigh City Council. He was a city fireman for 41 years, including 17 years as Fire Chief. (June 21, 1977) rt22jun77

1977, Region J Emergency Medical Services Council votes to send "statement of concern" to airport officials over safety provisions. Group includes hospital and emergency medical workers and government workers representing Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Lee, and Johnston counties. Concerns are voiced concerning airport's handling of single-engine plane crash 100 yards short of the airport on June 13, when a State Police helicopter was on scene within minutes and offered to transport an injured passenger to North Carolina Memorial Hospital. Instead, airport officials called the Cary Rescue Squad, which resulted in a 45-minute transport time. In addition, Wake Medical Center was placed "on alert" for an aircraft emergency, but with no additional information regarding aircraft type or number of persons aboard. Action comes hours after airport authority meeting on same subject. (June 22, 1977) nojun23

1977, in another front page article, The Raleigh Times surveys six comparable airports in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee and finds all have full-time firefighters with better staffing, more training, and higher pay. (June 25, 1977) rt

1977, in another front page article, The Raleigh Times reports improvements at the fire department:

  • "RDU fire training upgrade" is the headline of the story by Dudley Price.
  • Additional training has been received.
  • The airport's Operations Manager is assigned to help the fire department coordinate training duties.
  • They've practiced extinguishing fires in a fuel pit three times, after over a year since practicing in May 1976.
  • They've also responded to one practice drill after 9 a.m., when an FAA inspector was visiting. They responded within the required three-minute period.
  • They've also had four hours of training on access routes, for reaching hard-to-reach areas of the 4,000 acre airport.
  • Night-time manpower has been increased by one person, who works until midnight.
  • Additional communications equipment is being investigated for purchase by airport officials.
  • Airport has applied for $16,000 in federal grants, to buy four two-way radios.
  • Consultant Jack Keeter's report is expected by the end of the month. (July 19, 1977) rt

1977, altitude warning device installed in airport's computerized radar system (August 2, 1977) rt

1977, fully-loaded food truck catches fire on US.70 about one-quarter mile north of the airport exit. One foam truck responds, along with two Durham Highway units. Truck becomes fully involved when one of two freshly filled 100-gallon gasoline tanks ignites. Smoke is visible for miles. (August 8, 1977) rt

1977, in another front page story for the Raleigh Times by Dudley Price, Jack Keeter reports back to Airport Authority, advising that airport firefighters are inadequately trained, are undermanned, are underpaid, and lack proper radio equipment. His recommendations include:

  • Hire a full-time Fire Chief and Assistant Fire Chief to staff the firehouse around the clock, and assist part-time firemen who also work as ramp personnel.
  • Have at least three firemen on duty at the firehouse at all times, in addition to part-time firefighters who are servicing private planes.
  • Purchase radio equipment so firefighters don't have to communicate through the control tower.
  • Provide training using air masks in smoke and fire conditions at the Raleigh Fire Department drill tower.
  • Raise firefighter salaries from current $6,841 per year to $7,200 per year, and to $7,900 per year after twelve months on job.
  • Purchase an additional fire truck. The airport is seeking $30,000 in matching state funds, to purchase one.
  • Instruct airport police to work with firefighters to control crowds and direct arriving emergency vehicles in the event of disaster.
  • Report also praises the news reporter. "I don't know why [Mr. Price] began his investigation about this. And I haven't asked him. But I feel the airport authority owes [him] a letter of gratitude for bringing it to light."
  • Report also notes how firemen found out about planned FAA inspections, and were "fully dressed and ready for the drills" the day of the event. "Not all firefighters are dumb," he notes. "They get the word ahead of time that the FAA man's in town and spruce up for operation." (September 14, 1977) rt

1977, Airport Authority approves plan to improve fire department, reports Durham Morning Herald:

  • Cost of about $220,000 year.
  • Hire thirteen new people for "round the clock" staffing: eight firemen, four captains, and a new assistant to the Airport Manager.
  • Improve training.
  • Improve supervision.
  • Increase salaries of twenty-one present employees, from $6,840 to $8,731 per year.
  • Plan is supervised by the airport's Operation Manager.
  • Three people would be on-duty at the fire station at all times, with others performing other duties on the flight line on a rotating basis. (November 2, 1977)dmh

1977, airport makes $200,000 worth of improvements, including:

  • Purchase of new crash truck.
  • Purchase of radio equipment.
  • Hiring of ten personnel.oh, no13FEB80

1977, full-time staffing starts during hours that commercial flights are arriving and departing from airport. Shifts are 12 hours, with firefighters working two days on and two days off.

Personnel assigned as follows:

0600- 1800

Two on duty at North Ramp, mostly for FBO fueling. In event of Alert III (actual crash), personnel respond


Three on duty at fire station

0700- 1900

Three on duty at South Ramp, where "transient aircraft" arrive. Airport also has contract to fuel aircraft for Piedmont Airlines at that location. In event of Alert II, personnel report to fire station

1000- 2200

One person reports to North Ramp

1200- 2400

One person reports to fire station, which shuts down at 2400 hours or when the last flight arrives, whichever is later


Two persons report to the South Ramp and at 1900, one of which goes to the fire station

1900 0700

Three persons report to the South Ramp

Prior to this point, firefighters are ramp personnel with fire training who respond from North and South ramps when siren sounds, which could be activated from the control tower. Fire crews continuing filling dual roles with separately assigned ramp crews until about 1979, when Airport Authority sells aircraft fueling business. (After November 2, 1977) oh

1977, apparatus notes: North Carolina Department of Transportation approves $42,500 of $250,000 needed by the airport to "beef up its fire-crash-rescue squad equipment." The state funds will match those from the Airport Authority. The FAA will supply the remaining amount. The monies will be used to purchase:

  • New 1,500-gallon crash truck.
  • New "quick response fire truck."
  • New fire communication and emergency radio equipment.

The "Aeronautics Council had previously approved a request for $5,554 in state aid, to require a light rescue truck [and a] emergency communications system." The $61,710 project would have been covered by $50,603 in federal funds, and matching state and airport amounts. The airport did not have any "specialized rescue equipment" on its truck, and the project would've added "emergency lighting, power rescue tools, air packs, and a winch to free trapped people from the wrecked aircraft." The communications system would "tie in all airport emergency equipment and the Wake and Durham sheriff departments, fire departments and communication networks."

Due to "recent breakdowns on a large crash truck" as well as "a quick-response truck which [is] beyond repair," the Airport Authority requested the prior request be cancelled, and replaced with this project. The authority earlier this year decided to seek additional emergency equipment, at the recommendation of consultant Jack Keeter. (December 29, 1977)dmh29dec77, ds17nov77

1978, apparatus changes:

  • New CFR 3, 1977 Walter B1500 crash truck, delivered new, and placed in service as CT-3. Capacity is 1500 gallons water and 180 gallons ARFF foam. Equipped with 1000 GPM pump driven by separate engine.
  • Old CFR 3 (1959 Walter) removed from service. Disposed to Durham Museum of Life and Science as outdoor exhibit. (Early 1978)oh

1978, FATAL, twin-engine private plane crashes near airport. Aero Commander 680 disappears from radar at 8 p. m. and begins emitting automatic distress signal. About 300 searchers, including private citizens who join after hearing about the crash on their CB radio, are hampered by fog, swampy, wooden terrain, difficulty tracing the emergency transmitted of a downed craft. Read narratives. (February 13, 1978)no15feb78, oh

1978, twin-engine private plane crashes at airport. Beechcraft Bonanza loses power during afternoon take-off from Runway 5. Crashes just across runway from North Ramp about 100 yards into woods. Occupants walk away but are treated at local hospitals. (Fall 1978) oh

1978, private plane crashes just short of Runway 5 . No fatalities. Aircraft operated by Wheeler Air Lines, small commuter service based at RDU. oh

1979, disaster drill. Sunday afternoon exercise has forty people as victims of an air disaster, from NC State and Duke universities and the National Guard. The emergency plan being tested would request help from nine fire departments and six rescue squads in Wake and Durham counties. Patients would be transported to hospitals in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties. The two-hour drill brings an estimated 200 rescuers. The drill starts at 2:33 p.m. Within thirty seconds, three airport fire trucks have arrived at the scene. Eleven minutes later, two fire trucks and an ambulance (?) arrive from Morrisville. Shortly afterward, rescue units from Cary, Apex, Wake County EMS, and Six Forks Rescue arrived, followed by other fire and rescue units. Some patients are purposefully sent to the wrong hospital, to see if they're transferred to the appropriate facility. (Sunday before November 5, 1979)rt

1979 (?), private plane crashes just east of approach to Runway 5. Incident occurs in afternoon, during a thunderstorm. No fatalities. oh

1979, apparatus notes:

  • 1979 Chevrolet/Reading/Ansul rescue truck delivered as new CT-1. The skid-mounted dual-agent system with 450 pounds of dry-chemical and 50 gallons of light water is removed from the 1957 Chevy pick-up, and installed on the truck. Also serves as EMS response vehicle and carries full range of extrication equipment, including Hurst power tool previously carried on CT-2.oh, faj
  • Older dry-chemical skid system is moved from trailer to a 1966 Chevy pick-up, one of two previously used as ramp vehicles CS-12 and CS-13. The installed greatly overloads the truck, and the skid system is removed. Both the truck and the skid system are sold as retired, and sold as surplus in the next year or so.oh

1979, Airport Authority sells aircraft fueling business.

  • Firefighters no longer fulfill dual roles as firefighters and ramp crew members.
  • Fire department size reduces from around twenty-two line members to around twelve.
  • Several personnel laid off, but are quickly hired by Raleigh-Durham Aviation and Raleigh Flying Service.
  • Staffing schedule changes to three persons from 0700-1900, three persons from 1900-1700, and one 1200-2400 person.
  • Duties continue to contain ramp and operations tasks, ranging from wildlife patrol to vehicle escorts to fuel farm duties.oh, cfr 

1980, snapshot of firefighter duties during calendar year, as recorded in log book entries:

Emergency calls:

  • Aircraft emergencies or crashes (alerts)
  • Bomb threats on aircraft
  • Fire alarm activations
  • Fires (structure, vehicle, trash, woods, etc.)
  • Medical emergencies, on airport property
  • Medical emergencies on incoming (and often diverted) flights
  • Medical patients arriving via air ambulances
  • Motor-vehicle accidents, on airport property and nearby roadways

Requests for service:

  • Crowd control, assisting police on north ramp (celebrity arrival? Dignitary?)
  • Fuel spill, wash down
  • Missing person searches
  • Runway stand by, during inclement weather (such as snow) or high winds

Other duties:

  • Cleaning fire station
  • Equipment checks
  • Equipment and vehicle maintenance
  • Fuel farm duties, including recording fuel shipments, checking tank levels, sump pumping to check for trash and water, etc.
  • Fuel transport to fire pit (old fuel for burning)
  • Hot line check, phone line from control tower
  • Gate escorts, for vehicles onto airport property
  • Moving furniture (!) from airport hotel
  • Perimeter (security) checks
  • Radio checks
  • Runway checks for debris
  • Runway checks for deer
  • Runway debris removal
  • Runway lighting check, and replacing burned out bulbs
  • Runway wildlife control, running off deer
  • Snow removal, detailed to operate equipment
  • Tours of airfield, taking people on
  • Training classes
  • Training exercises
  • Washing trucks

1980, fire station moves into airport multi-purpose building #3. Building is located on south ramp, a few hundred feet southwest of the old fire station. Fire department occupies small portion of building, along with Building & Grounds (small portion, left of fire station) and a number of air cargo vendors (majority of building, right of fire station). See maps and diagrams. (January 24, 1980) oh, cfr 

1980, fire department announces formation of IAFF chapter at press conference. Twelve of the department's fifteen members join. President is Jerry W. Snead. Secretary is Pauline J. Massey, the department's only female member. Airport Authority never officially recognizes the group. Their requests include:

  • More manpower, with two more firefighters needed on each of the two shifts.
  • Higher salaries.
  • Shower and kitchen facilities at the fire station.
  • Restroom at the fire station for the female firefighter. (February 12, 1980)rt12feb80

Several changes result:

  • Working hours and staffing levels changed from 12 hour shifts with three personnel on duty to 24 hour shifts with five personnel on duty.
  • Rescue and EMS capabilities upgraded.
  • Communications equipment upgraded, with VHF portable radios made available.
  • Fire station renovations.

Fire station space renovated.

  • Located in airport multi-purpose building #3, living quarters consist of a single large day room.
  • Funds are provided to divide it into three bedrooms (one for the Lieutenant, one for female firefighters, and one for male firefighters), a day room, and a radio desk area.
  • Two storage rooms are converted into a kitchen and an office for the shift Lieutenants (presently called Captains).
  • Closet from the Chief's office is converted to a shower and a door is added between it and the restroom. Firefighters do most (all?) of the work.
  • Work on the remodeled bathroom and shower starts May 3, 1980. oh, cfr 

1980, FATAL, single-engine private plane crashes at airport. Pilot killed while practicing take-offs and landings. Passenger seriously injured. oh (February 13, 1980)

1980, private plane crashes at airport. Aircraft from Richmond runs out of fuel just short of Runway 23 (present Runway 23L). Firefighters actually observe plane go down. Two people are injured, but walk away from crash. (February 16, 1980) oh

1980, apparatus note: skid-agent dual-agent system moved from 1966 Chevrolet pick-up onto trailer. (By March 1980) oh

1980, department summary from master plan document (March 1980):

  • Fifteen personnel.
  • Average five on duty during day, three at night.
  • CT-1 - 1979 Chevrolet/Ansul "quick response truck" with 450# dry-chemical, 50 gallons light water.
  • CT-2 - 1969 International/Ansul "light-duty crash truck" with 1350# dry-chemical, 200 gallons light water.
  • CT-3 - 1977 Walter "heavy-duty crash truck" with 1000 GPM, 1500 gallons water, 200 gallons light water. Equipped with hoses and nozzles, for use as structural firefighting.
  • CT-4 - 1973 Walter "heavy-duty crash truck" with 1500 GPM, 3000 gallons water, 500 gallons foam concentrate.
  • Trailer with 400# dry-chemical.
  • Trailer with mass-casualty supplies.
  • Airport rated as Index "C", based on B-727-200 as largest aircraft served by airport.

1981, twin-engine private plane experiences landing-gear collapse upon landing. No one is injured aboard Beechcraft BE-95. (May 26, 1981)faa

1981, Altair Airlines Fokker F-28 makes emergency landing after three people are injured and aircraft sustains minor damage from air turbulence. (June 2, 1981)faa

1981, twin-engine private plane makes emergency landing after landing gear fails to lower. No one is injured aboard the Beechcraft BE-58. (October 5, 1981)faa

1982, Terminal A opens.

1982, apparatus designations changed from CT to CFR. (Circa February 1, 1982)cfr

1982, FATAL, Piper Cherokee crashes into Umstead Park. Seconds after taking off, pilot sees flames coming from engine and radios tower. His last words are "so long." Plane crashes into treetops of Umstead Park about midnight, landing upside down and in flames. Pilot escapes after kicking out cockpit door, suffering a few broken ribs and cuts to his head and arms. Plane lands a quarter of a mile from a parking lot near the main entrance and is located two hours later, at about 2 a.m., with three helicopters (North Carolina National Guard, WTVD-TV, and WRAL-TV) and more than 100 rescue workers searching for the downed craft. (Wednesday before August 6, 1982)no06aug82, oh

1982, twin-engine air taxi makes emergency landing after engine fails at cruise altitude. Camshaft failure and crankcase crack discovered. No one is injured aboard the Piper PA-60. (November 30, 1982)faa

1982, firefighter's union disbands due to internal conflicts oh

1984, twin-engine private plane makes emergency landing after landing gear fails to lower. No one is injured aboard the Piper PA-60. (June 15, 1984)faa

1984, electrical fire forces evacuation of about 1,500 travelers and employees from Terminal B. Fire starts and is confined to ground-floor janitor's room. Smoke from the room, located three floors below control tower, filters up second and third floors. Fire also knocks out power, as room carries electrical and telephone wires (and plumbing) throughout terminal building. Airport officials begin investigating report of smoke by a security guard about 9:30 a.m. Airport police officers check the building but are unable to locate the source of the smoke. During a second search, the source of the smoke is located. About 1,500 passengers and airport workers are evacuated about 12:30 p.m. Fire is quickly extinguished by firefighters from two Morrisville fire companies, one Durham Public Safety fire company, and the airport fire department. For about eight hours afterward, air traffic controllers in Virginia handle incoming and outgoing flights while RDU controllers man a rooftop and direct flight traffic via high-powered walkie talkies when aircraft come within 200 to 300 feet of ground. A second controller elsewhere on airport grounds then communicated the information via telephone to the Virginia control center. A total of 179 flights are handled by the Virginia control center. (November 25, 1984) no26nov84

1984, single-engine private plane damaged while taxiing to tie-down area. Piper PA-28 strikes unoccupied helicopter dolly "dark in color and unlighted. "Landing gear is torn off plane. (December 14, 1984)faa

1985, FATAL, experimental home-built plane crashes at Umstead State Park shortly after takeoff. Pilot of McClellan J. Grote Dragonfly is killed. Read narratives. (February 22, 1985) ntsb, oh

1985, single-engine private plane lands without landing gear. Pilot forgets to lower gear on Cessna CE-210 and is not injured. (April 17, 1985) faa

1985, Asst. Chief Jimmy Thompson named Fire Chief, after Terry Edmundson dies at Rex Hospital prior to new station opening. Edmundson, 47, had been hospitalized for about ten days before his death. He is survived by a wife and three sons. (December 16, 1985) oh, rdu

1986, FATAL, twin-engine private plane crashes at Umstead State Park after takeoff. Pilot and wife are killed after Piper PA-60 taking off from Runway 14. Read narratives. (July 24, 1986) ntsb, no, oh

1986, United Airlines passenger jet on final approach struck by bullet fired by hunter. One passenger injured aboard Boeing 737. (December 31, 1986) faa

1986, new fire station opens on Rescue Court. Station is relocated to the northeast side of the airport, to meet required response times for the 10,000 foot runway constructed at the same time. (March 22, 1986)oh, rdu

1986, new 10,000 foot runway opens. (April 1, 1986)rdu

1987, Terminal C opens (June 1987).

1987, single-engine private plane makes forced landing on lake [near airport?] Amphibious aircraft strikes shore and sustains minor damage. No injures aboard aircraft (January 2, 1987)faa

1987, private planes crashes upon landing after encountering wake turbulence. Two people seriously injured. (July 14, 1978) ntsb

1987, twin-engine air taxi catches fire on rollout. Piper PA-31 is evacuated. Fire started by oil leaking from engine nacelle due to oil cap not properly secured. None of five occupants injured. (November 9, 1987)faa

1987, Delta Airlines passenger jet experiences turbulence. Flight attendant sustains broken ankle. (November 10, 1987) ntsb

1988, CCAir commuter plane makes emergency landing. Smoke discovered in cabin of Jetstream 41. Plane lands safely. Failed seal found in right engine compressor. (January 28, 1988)faa

1988, FATAL, American Eagle commuter plane crashes at RDU. Both crew and all 10 passengers killed aboard after Fairchild SA227-AC crashes shortly after takeoff. Aircraft departs during low ceiling, low visibility, and night conditions, impacting a reservoir along Aviation Parkway. Read narratives. (February 19, 1988) ntsb

1988, FATAL, private planes collide near airport. Two people are killed and one person is uninjured aboard Piper PA-28R and Cessna 172, both departing for formation flight to Petersburg, VA. Piper is lead aircraft and Cessna is wingman. Read narratives. (May 25, 1988) ntsb

1988, airport name changes to Raleigh-Durham International Airport with inaugural American Airlines flight to Paris. (May 1988)

1988, gasoline tanker overturns in Johnston County. CFR 3 responds to US 70 at Guy Road. (Summer 1988) oh

1989, apparatus purchase. Airport Authority "agreed to buy" (awarded a bid?) a crash truck from Crash Rescue Service Equipment., Inc., a "1,500-gallon rapid intervention vehicle" with a capacity of 200 gallons of foam, and 500 gallons (pounds?) of dry chemical. (by February 8, 1989)dmh08FEB89

1989, private plane aborts takeoff and skids off runway. (June 24, 1989) ntsb

1989, FATAL, private plane crashes near airport. One person killed aboard Beechcraft E55 after flight departs airport at 11:19 a.m. Read narratives. (August 10, 1989) ntsb

1989, apparatus notes:

  • New CFR 2 delivered, 1989 CRES/1977? Walter B1500, ____/1500/200/500# original owner unknown. (October 9, 1989)
  • New CFR 2 placed in service, replacing 1969 International/Ansul. (October 16, 1989)
  • Old CFR 2 designated CFR 12. (On/after October 16, 1989).faj, rdu, oh

1989, private plane crashes near airport. One minor injury sustained aboard Piper PA-32R after engine quits after flight intercepts glide slop, with landing gear and flaps extended. Pilot establishes 85 knot emergency glide on localizer course. Attempts to start engine fail. Aircraft collides with trees, falls to grounds, and burns. Pilot escapes burning wreckage with minor injuries. Examination of aircraft fails to disclose any mechanical failure or malfunction. Pilot does not report moving fuel mixture level to rich position. Both normal and emergency procedures instruct pilot to return fuel mixture level to said position. Accident occurs about 5:55 a.m. Worker from nearby construction site finds pilot nearly an hour later, after making nearly two-mile trek into woods after hearing that Airport Security reported a plane down. Nearly 100 rescue personnel are involved in the search. (November 14, 1989) ntsb, rt24nov89


1990, apparatus changes: 

  • New CFR 4 delivered, 1990 CRES/197_? Walter CB3000, original owner unknown. Incorrectly remembered as a rebuild of current CFR 4. (May 30, 1990)
  • New CFR 4 placed in service, replaces 1973 Walter CB3000. (By June 4, 1990)
  • Old CFR 4 renamed CFR 14. Used as third front line crash truck, while CFR 3 is rebuilt.
  • CFR 3 (1977 Walter) drained of foam and water, and equipment removed, and loaded on truck for transport to Dallas, for rebuilding by CRES. (June 4, 1990)

1990, air taxi makes emergency landing. No injures aboard Swearingen SA 226TC after commuter flight arrives at destination airport and discovers right main landing gear will not extend using both normal and abnormal procedures. Flight returns to departure airport and lands with all wheels retracted. Subsequent examination of landing gear by operator reveals the right main gear door actuator fork had been incorrectly installed. As a result, the landing gear would not open. Pilot circles airport to burn fuel and lands on north end of 10,000-foot runway at 5:41 p.m. After a shower of sparks, the plane comes to rest about a half-mile from north end of runway. None of the 11 people aboard are injured. (January 24, 1990) ntsb, no25jan90

1990, disaster drill conducted. (June 2, 1990) wcfar

1990, apparatus changes:

  • Rebuilt CFR 3 delivered, 1990 CRES/1977 Walter B1500. Upgrades include new monitors and roof-mounted piping, under-bumper booster reel, and air-conditioning. (By November 12, 1990)
  • Rebuilt CFR 3 placed in service. (November 12, 1990)
  • CFR 14 (1973 Walter) retired. Equipment removed on November 14, and truck subsequently disposed to CRES. faj, rdu, oh

1990, Wake County EMS places ambulance in service at airport. EMS 6 is housed at a retrofitted old house on east side of Airport Boulevard, just south of Aviation Parkway. (Former home of earlier Airport Manager?) Ambulance is stored in A-frame garage building with single door that is erected beside the house. It's their first EMS unit deployed outside of the Raleigh municipal limits, and the first ambulance station by any agency at the airport. It is located about 2.0 miles from the airport fire station on Rescue Court. First full day of service for new station is December 8. (December 1990)rdu, oh

1990, Air taxi makes emergency landing after pilot experiences complete lost of rudder control for about 20 seconds. ntsb

1991, single-engine private plane makes emergency landing after manually lowering landing gear. Front and then right wing gear collapse after touching down about 1 p. m. No one aboard craft is injured. (Sunday before February 18, 1991) no

1991, apparatus delivery:  New CFR 1, a 1991 Ford/E-One mini-pumper, four-wheel drive, 250 GPM, 200 gallons water, and Feecon 30-gallon foam system. Replaces 1979 Chevrolet/Reading rescue/dry chemical unit. faj

1992, FATAL, single-engine private plane crashes near airport. Four-seat Piper Cherokee goes down about a half-mile behind a Toyota dealership at 9100 Glenwood Avenue about 10: 45 p. m. Both persons are killed, including a Wake County Commissioner. Read narratives. (February 18, 1992) ntsb

1993, passenger jet gets stuck on runway. DC-10. (April 17, 1993) no

1993, American Airlines passenger jet makes emergency landing. Four flight attendants injured during moderate turbulence. Boeing 767 diverted to Raleigh-Durham and lands safety. (June 27, 1993)faa

1993, new 800 mhz radio system activated. (November 1993)cfr

1993, alert procedures for dispatch and response updated. (November 1993) wcfar

1994, single-engine private plane crashes near airport. Piper Cherokee goes down in heavily wood area near Hickory Grove Church Road, about three miles from airport. Pilot and passenger walk from wreckage to nearby house to report crash about 9:45 p. m. Both are transported to Wake Medical Center and later listed in stable condition. Read narratives. (April 14, 1994)

1995, equipment delivery: disaster trailer. Carries equipment for multi-patient incidents. (By November 9, 1995)cfr

1994, FATAL, American Eagle commuter plane crashes in Morrisville at night, approximately 5 miles short of runway. Both crew and 13 of 18 passengers killed. Responders take tractors and off-road vehicles to reach crash site off Davis Dr. Read narratives.  (December 13, 1994) 

1995, FATAL, single-engine private plane crashes on airport property. Piper PA-28 clips trees and crashes into wooded area. Both persons are killed. Read narratives. (July 5, 1995) ntsb

1996, apparatus note: mobile command post construction begins. Built using tractor-drawn trailer. Upon completion, is parked on south side of fire station. For moving, tractor is requested from Airport Authority. (January-February, 1996) oh

1996, air taxi experiences nose-gear collapse upon landing. Nine persons uninjured aboard Candair CL-600 after pilot notices discrepancy in landing gear indicators during instrument landing system (ILS) approach. He raises and lowers landing gear again. Main landing gear indicator lights are indicated, indicating that the main gear is extended and locked, but the nose gear light is extinguished. The light in the gear handle is off, indicating that the system is functioning properly. Pilot does use the emergency landing gear extension system. Aircraft lands and nose gear collapses. Subsequent examination reveals intermittently operating extend solenoid in nose gear selector value. (April 1, 1996) ntsb

1996, apparatus note: CFR 12 (1969 International/Ansul) removed from service. On May 5, truck is stripped from all equipment. Dry chemical is put in CFR 2 and CFR 3. ARFF is put in CFR 3. (By May 5, 1996) oh

1996, Raleigh Flying Service hanger burns. Four or five aircraft destroyed. Fire starts about 5:20 p.m. when a single-engine aircraft catches fire during de-fueling. As entire fire department responds, airport closes to all incoming and departing flights eight minutes later and remains closed until 5:55 p.m. Two employees of the aviation service are transported to Rex Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. Responding departments include Durham Highway, Morrisville, Six Forks, Raleigh, Bethesda, and Parkwood. (October 31, 1996) oh, no01nov96

1997, private plane crashes at airport. No injures aboard Cessna 150G after "big gust of wind" blows across runway 01 and approaching aircraft starts to drift off the centerline. Pilot attempts to avoid trees by applying "full power" and gaining airspeed. Aircraft continues to drift and strikes trees alongside of runway. Witness says "it was gusty and the wind was out of the west." Witness heard power being applied to airplane's engine and thought pilot was "going around." Witness watched aircraft, saying "he had a high pitch altitude... the wind started blowing him off the runway... [the aircraft] continued to drift... and hit one of the pine trees... he still had power on." Wind was reported to be from 260 degrees at 10, gusting 16 knots. NTSB determines probably cause as failure of pilot to maintain proper runway alignment during attempted landing go-around, with relating factors gusty crosswind condition and proximity of trees to runway. (April 19, 1997) ntsb

1997, FATAL, single-engine private plane crashes in woods on airport property. Pilot is killed after Cessna 172 disappears from radar at 8: 11 p. m., six minutes after take-off. Wreckage is located at 11:18 p. m. Read narratives. (December 24, 1997)

1997, new EMS station opens at 1015 National Guard Drive. One-story, two bay, 2,145 square-feet. The new structure is built by the airport, and houses EMS 6. It is located about 2.7 miles from the airport fire station on Rescue Court.

1998, mock plane crash conducted. Emergency drill starts after noon and lasts until about 6: 30 p.m. More than ten fire departments participate. (October 3, 1998)no

1998, gasoline tanker explodes on the Beltline in Raleigh, just west of Capital Boulevard. Late-evening accident kills driver when abandoned vehicle is struck jutting from shoulder. Residents in nearby Brentwood hear explosion; hear smoke detectors go off from wafting smoke. Adjacent brush also burns and is contained by engine companies at Highwoods Office Park, above incident. County departments provide tankers for water support; airport crash truck is requested and CT-4 responds. Tanker carried 9,100 gallons. Fires burn both at crash site and at bottom of storm-drain slope. Firefighters let the blaze burn itself out. (December 18, 1998.)

1999, American Airlines passenger jet experiences severe turbulence on approach to airport. Five of 135 persons are injured, one serious aboard McDonnell Douglas MD-80. Flight attendants are securing passenger cabin and gallery for landing at time of occurrence. Pilot reports fasten seat belt light is on and clear air turbulence was not forecasted. Digital flight recorder reveals turbulence encountered approximately 17,462 feet on magnetic heading of approximately 144 degree, with subsequent vertical acceleration reaching a maximum of 2.05 G's and a minim of -.49 G's. (February 8, 1999) ntsb

1999, US Airways passenger jet aborts take-off after engine has "loud bang, followed smoke and fire. " Approximately 70 passengers exit the Boeing 737 through both forward doors, three or four sustaining minor injures. (April 19, 1999)faa


2000, apparatus delivery: new CFR 4, a 2000 Oshkosh TI-3000 crash truck. Truck is delivered via flatbed, along with second flatbed with equipment. Specifications:

  • six-wheel drive
  • 1950 GPM pump
  • 3000 gallons water
  • 420 gallons foam
  • 450-pound Purple-K dry-chemical
  • Akron 600-1200 GPM roof turret
  • Raytheon night vision
  • Akron hydrochem systems. (July 27 2000)faj, cfr 

2000, FATAL, twin-engine private plane crashes near airport. DeHavilland DHC-6 crashes near the center of Umstead State Park while on approach to the airport. Pilot is killed and two passengers are transported to Wake Medical Center after control tower loses radar contact with plane 12: 22 a. m. Emergency workers are notified of possible plane down at 12: 40 p. m. A park ranger discovers the wreckage lying across Company Mill Road after smelling jet fuel, about 2. 5 miles southeast of the airport at 3: 28 a. m. Read narratives (July 31, 2000) no 

2000 apparatus notes:

  • 2000 Oshkosh placed in service as CFR 4, replacing 1990 CRES/197? Walter CB-3000. (September 19, 2000)cfr 
  • Old CFR 4 sent to shop, out of service. (September 22, 2000)cfr 

2000 apparatus deliveries: new CFR 2 and CFR 3, pair of 2000 Oshkosh TI-1500 crash trucks. Delivered via two flatbed trucks. Specifications:

  • Four-wheel drive
  • 1500 GPM Waterous single-stage pump
  • 1500 gallons water
  • 210 gallons foam
  • 450-pound Purple-K dry chemical
  • Raytheon night vision system
  • Akron hydrochem systems
  • Complete set of Hurst extrication equipment (CFR 2 only)
  • SPATT tool (CFR 2 only). (November 29, 2000)faj, cfr 

2000, apparatus notes:

  • New CFR 2 and CFR 3 placed in service, replacing two CRES/Walter crash trucks. (December 14, 2000)
  • Old CFR 2 sent to shop. Later removed from service. (December 14, 2000)cfr 
  • Old CFR 3 removed from service. (December 15, 2000)cfr 

2001, Terminal A south concourse opens.rdu-ws

2001, vehicle delivery: 2000 Ford Excursion, operated by shift commander. Replaces Chevrolet Suburban (April 2001)faj

2001, Carolina Power & Light substation in downtown Raleigh explodes. Dispatched 5:35 p.m. Under control 7:31 p.m. Thick smoke is visible for miles during afternoon rush hour. The explosion and fire brings hundreds of spectators, as well as CFR-4 from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, summoned to spray foam on the burning transformers. Durham Highway, Wendell, and Six Forks sends foam concentrate as Raleigh's supply dwindles. (August 7, 2001)

2001, Raleigh Fire Station 24 opens at 10440 Fossil Creek Court, which adds an structural engine company available as mutual aid within minutes from the airport. It is located 3.4 miles from the airport fire station on Rescue Court. (August 24, 2001)

2001, FATAL, private plane crashes into house at 7609 Stone Horse Court near Umstead Park. Read narratives. (December 12, 2001)

2002, apparatus modifications: logos added of Casper the Friendly Ghost. (August 2002)

2002, fire department is featured in On The Runway column in Fire Apparatus Journal, Number 19, Volume 5, September-October 2002, by Mark A. Redman and Pete Brock.


  • Airport is located on 5,000 acres.
  • Average of 550 aircraft movements per day.
  • Handled 9.5 million passengers and 121,000 tons of cargo in 2001.
  • Emergency Services department has nineteen firefighters, with two officers and four firefighters per shift.
  • All members are EMT-D certified.
  • Answered 974 emergency calls and 1,200 non-emergency calls in 2001.
  • Fire station is situated between the two major runways.
  • Structural support is provided under mutual aid agreement from city of Raleigh, from nearby Fire Station 24.

2002, mock plane crash conducted. (November 2002)

2004, Navy F/A-18 Hornet explodes on take-off. Pilot safely ejects. Plane continues rolling and comes to rest about 250 feet from Terminal A. Jet is one of two refueling at airport. Raleigh Engine 24, Engine 23, Engine 17, Engine 18, Truck 16, Battalion 4, and Car 5 are dispatched, along with Durham Highway and Western Wake units. (March 26, 2004) no01apr04, oh

2004, single-engine private plane makes emergency landing on Aviation Parkway at 1:50 p.m. Pilot reports losing air pressure after taking off and makes safe landing on southbound lanes while attempting to return to airport. Aircraft is not damaged. Raleigh Engine 24 responds along with CFR. (March 31, 2004) no01apr04

2005, Six Forks EMS at 6901 Mt. Herman Road. The one-story structure, built 1972 and with 10,816 heated square-feet, was obtained by the airport in 1990. Unit 1273 placed in service, as primary response for airport proper and to the east. Cary EMS responds from Morrisville, to Interstate 40 and the airport west. Two rescue boats and a light trailer are also/later located there. It is located 1.9 miles from the airport fire station on Rescue Court. (October 1, 2005)

2005, apparatus delivery: new CFR 1, a 2005 Ford F-550/4 Guys mini-pumper with 500 GPM pump, 250 gallons of water, and 20-gallon foam cell. Replaces 1991 Ford/E-One mini-pumper. (November 2005)

2005, EMS 6 vacates their station on National Guard Drive. The Wake County EMS unit is moved to another service area in the county. The building is subsequently occupied by UNC Hospital, in January 2006, which stores mobile care units there. (By December, 2005)

2008, Terminal 2 opens, with first phase of 550,000 square-foot facility completed. On same day, Terminal A is renamed Terminal 1. (October 26, 2008)rdu-ws

2009, Raleigh Fire Station 24 adds a ladder company at its location, Ladder 23, later named Ladder 6. (January 3, 2009.)


2011, second and final phase of Terminal 2 opens. (January 24, 2011)rdu-ws

2011, Six Forks EMS ceases operation. Wake County EMS assumes role of provider for their response area at 0800 on Monday, May 3, and has placed four units in service, including EMS 34 at the airport, operating 0800-2000. The EMS station at the airport is named RDU. It later houses EMS 34, EMS 35, and Medic 95. (May 2, 2011)

2012, Ownership of the airport EMS station building its 1.09 acre parcel transferred to the county. (September 19, 2014)

2013, apparatus delivery: 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe MPV, as Fire Chief's vehicle.cfr 

2014, Terminal 1 reopens following $68M modernization project. (April 13, 2014)rdu-ws

2014, Airport EMS station closed. Building to be demolished and replaced with new structure. EMS 34, EMS 35, Medic 95 relocated to Lynn Road EMS station. During operation periods, EMS 34 anchors at WakeMed Brier Creek. EMS 35 anchors at Pleasant Valley Shopping Center. Medic 95 also sort of anchors at that location. By this time, plans have changed with a slight shift of the building. The thing's been moved a little to the northwest, to get out of the flight line restrictions. (October 14, 2014)

2014, apparatus deliveries:

  • 2014 Command Support Products Foam Chariot III foam trailer, twin-axle trailer with three 265 gallon foam totes (3% ARFF) plus high-capacity monitor (1000 GPM). Placed in service August 2014. cfr 
  • 2015 Ford F-350/UPF brush truck, 300/300/10, designated CFR 12. Placed in service July 2014.rdu 

2015, Airport EMS station re-opens. New EMS station in service with EMS. The station houses EMS 34 and EMS 35 at present. Those are twelve-hour trucks, currently operational from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  Contains supervisor's office, bathroom, locker/exercise room, dayroom, kitchen, supply room in apparatus bay. No sleeping quarters. The new building is first three-bay county-built EMS station. (November 3, 2014)

2016, apparatus delivery: new CFR 4, a 2016 Oshkosh Striker 3000, 2000/3200/420/450#/460# plus Snozzle. Truck is purchased with 85% of funding from federal and state sources, and is thus painted safety yellow.


Engine Deutz TCD 16.0L V8, 670 HP, 1950 ft. lbs. of torque at 1400 RPM, US Tier 3
Transmission Allison 4800 EVS automatic
Suspension Oshkosh TAK-4 independent system
Pump Power divider driven Waterous CRQB, single stage, pump and roll capable, 2000 GPM at 240 PSI
Water 3000 gallons
Foam 420 gallons (3% AFFF)
Dry Chemical 450 pounds (nitrogen propellant)
Halotron 460 pounds (argon propellant)
Special Features Snozzle, 50 foot extendable boom, 500/1000/1250 GPM.
High volume, low attack bumper turret, 1250 GPM.
Driver's Enhanced Vision System (DEVS)

The Snozzle is called a High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET), and adds the ability to:

  • Flow 500 GPM (low flow), 1000 GPM (high flow), or 1250 GPM (with limited horizontal travel). Plus 250 GPM through the piercing tip. (The airport's current crash trucks flow 300 GPM from the bumper.)
  • Flow water, foam, and dry chemical.
  • Deliver precise and controlled piercing over the wing, under cargo areas, and from high angles of aircraft.
  • Extend the reach of extinguishing agents, so the vehicle can be positioned away from escape slides and triage efforts.
  • Flow a full master stream at ground level, for such uses as extinguishing burning tires and/or hot brakes quickly and effectively.
  • Deliver a wide spray pattern to reach under an aircraft, for cooling fuel tanks and cargo areas.
  • Master stream can be adjusted to deliver a quick mass decontamination shower.
  • Lift up to 500 pounds.
  • Can be used as a stand pipe.

Truck also has Driver's Enhanced Vision System (DEVS), a moving map display that helps vehicle operators safely navigate in low visibility conditions. Such as rain, sleet, fog, or smoke from a fire. It displays the location of the truck on the airfield, and also provides alerts as the vehicle approaches runway holding markings and runway safety areas. (Called an Imbedded Runway Incursion Warning System.)

Additional features of DEVS are:

  • Waypoints and crash site information can be placed on the map for easier low visibility navigation.
  • Routes can be programmed into the system to avoid unsafe areas and for most efficient routing.
  • Ability to create geographic zones to avoid areas of construction and other obstacles.
  • Full internet access from within the vehicle.
  • Document storage gives personnel access to schematic drawings of aircraft, hazardous materials information, GIS maps, etc.
  • Allows for vehicle location tracking for incident commanders.

Truck is delivered via flatbed to airport maintenance facility. (April 28, 2016)cfr 

2016, New CFR 4 placed in service, after training and FAA certification concludes. (September 19, 2016)cfr 

2017, Apparatus delivery:  2017 Oshkosh Global Striker 6×6, 1250/3000/420/450# . (December 14, 2017)

2018, New CFR 3 placed in service. (February 16, 2018)

2019, Apparatus delivery: 2019 Freightliner/Pierce Responder pumper, 1250/750/45. (November 7, 2019)


2020, New CFR 1 placed in service. (January 6, 2020)



cfd Cary Fire Department records
faj Fire Apparatus Journal, Volume 19, Number 5, "On the Runway" by Mark A. Redman and Pete Brock, September-October, 2002.
ftaw Fire Trucks at War, www.firetrucks-atwar.com
oh Oral history
no News and Observer
ntsb NTSB vis aviation-safety.net
rdu Airport fire department records
rdu-ws Airport Web Site
rt Raleigh Times
sos NC Department of the Secretary of State
vt Video transcript, http://www.themediapro.com/Video%20&%20Radio%20Scripts/RDU%20Historical%20Spot%20(Two%20Minutes).doc


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