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      Training for disaster

      Statistically, you are at far greater risk driving to the airport than getting on an airplane. But even if stats are in your favor, people need to know what to do in case of a disaster.

      That's what firefighters with airports across the U.P. were doing Thursday at the Delta County Airport. Whether it's preparing for an engine fire, a fuel fire, or a cabin fire, the aircraft fire simulator from Kellogg Community College lets firefighters get as close to real-life emergencies as they can get.

      "I'm going to instruct these guys on how to fight a fire inside, outside, and on top of this aircraft," said instructor, Dan Owen. "It's a lot of work out here today, but this is real-life training that we can provide safely."

      Once a year airports across the nation, along with local fire departments, train using this simulator, a requirement by the FAA. And those who train take it seriously because they know it could ultimately save lives.

      "That's our primary mission is to save and rescue them and get them out of the airplane," said Henry Trottier with the Delta County Airport. "This is the closest thing to a real-life disaster we can train for."

      "It's important to get the training so we can constantly be ready for what might happen or occur," explained Jim Kaminski with the Manistee County Blacker Airport.

      From the U.P. to Florida to California, Owen says he trains thousands of people each year. Currently, Owen says, the simulator is the only traveling piece of training equipment of its kind in the U.S.

      "This is the only one in service currently, yes," Owen said. "There are some other pits in Chicago, Minneapolis we can go, but those are fixed, based pits. It's a lot cheaper for us to drive up here, and the firefighters around the U.P. can actually meet us here and we can train them all at the same time."

      Thursday was the final day for training in the U.P. The simulator will be heading to Minnesota this weekend.