SAIPAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — The Commonwealth Ports Authority is marketing Saipan’s ability to train personnel in aircraft rescue and firefighting to Asian airport officials with the first regional groups due to arrive in December.

Carlos H. Salas executive director of the authority told the Journal this would allow airport personnel from those countries to meet standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. National Board of Fire Service Professionals while at the same time help generate revenue for the Saipan economy. “Our plan is to have a meeting with the responsible airport officials there and do a ‘dog and pony show.’ The marketing tool primarily is that the facility paves the way for FAA certification for the airport firefighters. We think that such a certification would appeal ” he said.

Salas said they intend to have the first batch of students in from Hong Kong China and Korea by December this year. “December is the target month. Firefighters from these countries would love to be here because of the weather ” he said. The authority plans to offer an incremental rate structure to appeal to regional airport officials.

CPA’s facility which opened in November last year is the only one of its kind in the region.

Asian countries are bound by the International Council of Airport Operators but Salas said FAA standards and programs are “more pro-active” and that these are “constantly improved with time.” Another advantage is that the CNMI runs its own immigration laws and can allow entry to trainees from Asia for a limited time.

A student who undergoes training at CPA’s $5 million Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility spends an estimated $120 in hotel accommodation car rental and food per day for the duration of the four-week training. The facility can accommodate up to 40 students at full capacity which translates to $144 000 a month or $1.73 million a year in consumer spending. On top of this is the $300 fee per person that CPA charges for the training.

“The financial impact would be great and so is the impact on the aircraft firefighters who have undergone training consistent with federal standards ” Salas said.

The ARFF accepts students from Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. Eighteen students including five from Saipan and two from Tinian graduated from the training. At $120 a day the 13 students from Palau Yap Chuuk Pohnpei Kosrae Majuro and Tinian spent nearly $47 000 during their stay which was shouldered by their governments.

Hawaii also has a facility but it is more expensive to send trainees there. Stanley C. Torres ARFF fire chief said it costs up to $5 000 to send an airport individual for training in Hawaii which includes airfare per diem and tuition.

Moreover Salas said the Hawaii International Airport’s facility was not designed for training firefighters from other airports.

FAA regulations require airport firefighters to undergo live-fire training at least every year. Otherwise the airport would be classified as fit only for smaller aircraft.

Torres said there are 150 airport firefighters in Guam Saipan Rota Tinian Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. Airport officials send their personnel in groups he said. “The FAA is working on getting more support in the area of funding to allow airports in FSM to send people. Continental Airlines also gives FSM airport personnel a discount when going on training here.”

Torres said the CPA is working with the Guam International Airport Authority to augment its instructors’ pool. MBJ