After several years under discussion the ICAO Level C standard has finally been published.
A new 4th Edition of the Airport Services Manual Part 1 was recently published incorporating it and the test protocol has also been included in Annex 14 to the Convention on Civil Aviation.
In the test protocol, Level C requires extinguishment of a larger fire with a lower application rate than the existing level B. Below is a summary of the test procedure.
Because the foam industry found the level C parameters so challenging, ICAO has relaxed the definition of extinguishment. In the past, complete extinguishment was required in 60 seconds. Now the standard allows flame flickers around the rim of the tray provided total extinguishment is achieved after 120 seconds.
In the light of this, some in the industry ask if economics has become more important than safety, which ought to be paramount in life and death situations like airport crash and rescue. The aim of introducing a new performance level was to require less foam to be applied needing lower use of water, vehicles and other resources and therefore producing financial savings.
As John-Olav Ottesen Managing Director at Dafo Fomtec remarks,“The progress of approval standards is usually by upgrading not downgrading, so this was a surprise particularly as it also applies also to level B”
The introduction of ICAO level C has come at a time when the foam industry is already facing a major challenge to reformulate all foams away from long carbon chain(C8) fluorosurfactants to short chain (C6).
The latest to achieve full changeover to C6 for all products is Dafo Fomtec in Sweden. John-Olav Ottesen again : “We decided to incorporate the ICAO level C challenge into the C6 programme and are very pleased to announce that we have just received approvals for AFFFs with C6 raw materials to both ICAO level B and level C”.