'Fit for purpose' is the phrase used by everyone associated with the RNZAF's new Ford Ranger rapid intervention vehicle.
Seamless team work by sgfleet and key suppliers Ford Motor Company of New Zealand, Nautech Electronics and Fully Equipped ensured the swift delivery of an urgently-needed new rapid intervention vehicle (RIV) for the fire-fighting team at the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Auckland Base.
The silver four-wheel-drive double cab Ford utility vehicle certainly looks the part. With 'R1' on its side doors, a sleek light array on its roof and florescent emergency vehicle stripes, the big Ford sits ready on the Whenuapai airfield tarmac for the on-duty fire crew to leap into action whenever required.
It's one of the busiest vehicles in the rescue fire fleet according to acting base fire master Paul Leadbetter.
"The RIV's main role is to get the officer in charge (OIC) of the fire rescue crew of the day to an aircraft incident rapidly, as soon as possible. This enables the OIC to size up the situation and deploy the other emergency vehicles in the most efficient manner to deal with an aircraft crash or fire incident," says Leadbetter.
"It also has many other roles, such as being deployed to light aircraft fields on exercise due to its fire-fighting abilities and its operability on uneven terrain. Its day-to-day is auxiliary airfield duties which include bird management, assisting the tower personnel with runway checks, escorting and many other ancillary duties."
In fact, Leadbetter says it's virtually impossible to operate without a fully-functional RIV and with the new Ford in place, he and his team can complete their duties effectively and efficiently.
"Our previous vehicle became unserviceable and we required a replacement quickly," says Leadbetter. "That's where Bryce Grove from sgfleet stepped in, coming out to the base to see the old vehicle and ensuring he understood the exact specifications we needed.
"Our primary concern was the vehicle's ability to carry the fire-fighting foam tank, a steel container weighing 260 kg when filled with 220 litres of foam solution. It also needed to be capable of carrying four people and miscellaneous fire-fighting equipment at the same time. We had no specific brand requirements; simply that the vehicle could safely carry out the duties we required of it. Bryce informed me that the Ford Ranger came well within the safety spec and he was confident that we wouldn't experience any problems with it."
Grove, who is the general manager, trade operations at sgfleet, says with this year's relatively limited availability of commercial vehicles – a flow-on effect of the 2011 Japanese tsunami – combined with the RNZAF's requirements meant the number of vehicles suitable for the job was relatively small.
"Having concluded that the Ford Ranger best met the required specifications, we were then unable to source a new vehicle in their preferred colour. That's where Ford New Zealand helped out, sourcing us a near new vehicle from their press fleet which fit the bill," says Grove.
"With that aspect solved, next we contacted the team at Fully Equipped who took over the next step in the vehicle's preparation for its customised role."
At Fully Equipped's Auckland site, the Ford was fitted with two Fully Equipped specialities – a Crown fibreglass canopy and a contour-moulded Tuf Dek liner – before the custom-made steel tank was fitted into the rear tray.
Fully Equipped co-director Michael Reed says their New Zealand-made light commercial vehicle accessories are manufactured specifically for New Zealand conditions. "Crown canopies and Tuf Dek liners are known for their quality, reliability, strength, design, and longevity – characteristics which all contribute to this vehicle being made fit for purpose."
Leadbetter adds: "The guys from Fully Equipped liaised primarily with Bryce, but asked me about certain elements such as the correct placement of the foam-holding steel tank. They were great about keeping me informed of progress and when the vehicle moved to the next installer, Nautech Electronics, which supplied the radio antennas, lights and warning devices.
"Nautech removed the radios from our old vehicle and fitted them to the Ford. They involved me all the way through with radio placement, what type of lights we needed, etc. and went out of their way to make sure that everything suited our needs.
"sgfleet knew of the concerns we had and how valuable that vehicle is to our day-to-day operations. The project was given priority with them and everyone worked as quickly as possible with no lapses. Each step was mapped out, with each stage being checked with me and they even double-checked with me before doing any drilling or fitting."
Now that the Ford Ranger RIV is in operation, Leadbetter says the vehicle definitely suits its intended purpose.
"All the operators of the vehicle are very happy with the fit-out, the ease of use, how the truck handles out on the airfield. I haven't heard any negative comments whatsoever. The guys have a sense of pride while driving around in it and appreciate the quality of the actual vehicle itself.
"The fire-masters on the other two bases said it was important to get this vehicle right as it's the template for us to upgrade and update their vehicles in the future."
Customised fit-out components
From Fully Equipped Ltd:
* Crown canopy and Tuf Dek tray liner which are purpose-designed and manufactured for the Ford Ranger with considerable input from Ford Motor Company of New Zealand.
* Their engineering expertise assisted with the strengthening of the rear suspension and the fitment of the foam-carrying steel tank to ensure even distribution of weight.
From Nautech Electronics Ltd:
* Designed, manufactured and supplied the roof-fitted light bar, headlight flashers, windscreen LED units, taillight LED and siren.
* De-installed and reinstalled three emergency radios, with their experts suggesting the aerial locations of the original vehicle to be amended on the new vehicle to ensure radio reception was maximised.