August 22. 2017 10:07PM

Firefighting foam fills airplane hangar as part of drill in Portsmouth

Union Leader Correspondent

Firefighting foam gushes out during a drill at PlaneSense in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning. The company tested its emergency fire extinguishing system. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — PlaneSense tested its emergency fire extinguishing system at its hangar in Portsmouth on Tuesday morning.

The 40,000-square-foot hangar was filled with non-toxic foam designed to smother flames.

PlaneSense officials say the test drill is mandatory every five years. Additional safety and fire system tests are performed on an annual basis.

Foam is used to fight fires in airplane hangars because it does not damage the sensitive electronics in aircraft and equipment that may be stored inside the facility.

During Tuesday’s test, 25 gallons of foam mixture was used to create 10 feet of soap bubbles which filled the hangar.

Vice President of Flight Operations Ray Torres said protecting employees and the fleet of aircraft is a priority for company officials. Approximately 60 aircraft mechanics and line staff workers are inside the hangar throughout the day.

“It’s primarily for the safety of the workers — the people associated with our company — to ensure their safety. The other benefit, of course, is it also protects the equipment that our owners have purchased. They’re very, very expensive airplanes, so it makes sure that the other airplanes that might not be associated with an event are also protected. But it’s primarily for the safety of the people,” Torres said.

The hangar is part of an 88,000-square-foot office complex and is used to service PlaneSense’s fleet of nearly 40 aircraft. The fractional aircraft ownership company has been in operation since 1996, and has the largest civilian fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in the world.

PlaneSense also has several Nextant 400XTi jets and officials there are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Pilatus PC-24 jets, which will be coming soon.

PlaneSense serves customers throughout the United States, and offers flights to Cuba and Bermuda.