A I R C R A F T S T O R A G E
allegedly full,” explains Michael Partin,
co-founder of HangarStack, which supplies
software for organizing the towing and
parking of aircraft in a hangar.
It’s not just wild weather conditions
that pose a risk to aircraft. All of the
elements required to start a fire present
in aircraft hangars – aviation fuel, heat
from the aircraft systems and engines and
an abundance of oxygen. It’s therefore
unsurprising that aircraft hangar fire
detection systems are perceived as a
critical part of a hangar, to protect the high
value contents of these buildings.
“As all of the elements of the fire triangle
Fire suppression systems: worth the risk?
Recent aviation investigations by industry
organizations including the National Air
Transportation Association (NATA) have
indicated that the risk of accidental discharge
of foam fire suppression systems is high.
These accidents have significant costs related
to clean-up, aircraft damage, and possible
“NATA members have repeatedly expressed
concerns that foam fire suppression systems
provide limited risk mitigation due to the low
incidence of hangar fuel fires, while imposing
a dramatic increase in the cost of new hangar
development,” says Megan Eisenstein, NATA’s
director of regulatory affairs.
“There is significant uncertainty surrounding
the benefits versus potential hazards related to
hangar foam fire suppressions systems.”
In an effort to review the causes, hazards,
are present in aircraft hangars, there
exists significant risk that an unwanted
ignition could occur. Moreover, unless early
appropriate action is taken, the losses due
to damage of aircraft and hangar would
be enormous,” explains Mike Newton,
founder and chairman of NetVu and Firevu,
which supply video-based fire and smoke
detection monitoring systems for hangars.
Cost and design
So, what determines the cost of a hangar space? Woolsey
says, “A lot of factors go into working out hangar space
costs. FBOs that build and manage these hangars rent the
land from the municipal government and this cost varies.
and associated costs of accidental discharges
of foam fire suppression systems, NATA and
the University of Maryland are researching
the history of foam system use in aviation
hangars to quantify the hazards, incidence
rates, and costs of accidental foam system
discharges. “The basic cost to recharge a foam
“For example, the cost of the land lease in New York is
drastically different than land lease in rural Arkansas, and
that cost is ongoing to the hangar provider.”
Woolsey believes design is another factor that plays
a role. “These structures are engineered with steel
packages drastically different than department store
sheds that can have beams inside holding up the
“There are no interior support beams in hangars.
Add to that wind loading to hurricane standards and
snow load weight requirements. All these factors,
although hidden to the naked eye, go into the cost of
64 | BU S INE S S A I R P O RT INT E RNAT I ONA L O C TO B E R 2 0 1 9
system and to clean-up a contained discharge
is somewhere between US$20,000 and
US$40,000,” explains Eisenstein.
“However, history indicates that many
accidental discharges, due to the nature of
the foam systems, cannot to be contained.
In that case, foam can lead to significant
environmental concerns and remediations that
quickly drive costs into the millions of dollars.”
According to Eisenstein that over the last
decade, accidental foam discharges have
occurred at the rate of approximately one every
seven weeks, causing more than US$100 million
in aircraft damage.
Hangar foam systems were designed to
mitigate the risk of large-scale, in-hangar, fuel
spill fires - a risk that, according to Eisenstein,
appears to be nearly non-existent in the past
20 to 30 years.
“Changes to aircraft design, fuel types, and
safety management processes have evolved
dramatically over the past 40 years, however,
foam suppression requirements have remained
nearly static. The question may not be ‘what is
the alternative to foam?’ but rather, ‘is foam
worth the risk?’” she concludes.
“The cost of the
land lease in New
York is drastically
different than land
lease in rural
Roger Woolsey, CEO of FBO Million Air
building and maintaining these incredible structures. Hangar
location, size of adjacent apron, amenities, condition and
capabilities also impact pricing,” adds Carley.
Ensuring a hangar is attractive to customers is no easy
feat as Sophie Mabire, general manager of hangar operator
Geneva Airpark, explains: “To make a hangar attractive,
the environment must be reassuring, clean, and secure.
Jet owners and operator must feel confident to store their
aircraft in a hangar with a guaranteed level of safety.
“The services provided must not be only
operational services – aircraft towing in and out
– but also security, with a staff 100% dedicated
Below: McKinney National
Airport’s new 40,000ft hangar
opened in April 2019
Below right: The hangar has
space for up to four Gulfstream