Florida the Destination for PANTHER No. 2,000

Inauguration ceremony in the Sunshine State

It's an impressive number: At the end of 2019, the 2,000th PANTHER rolled off the assembly line. The milestone vehicle of the powerful Rosenbauer airport fire truck was built at the production site in the US state of Minnesota and subsequently transferred to its destination in Florida. The vehicle was officially put into service in January 2020, with a traditional American christening ritual: the pushback ceremony.

A PANTHER from overseas

The first Rosenbauer PANTHER was delivered in 1992. 27 years later - now in its fourth generation - PANTHER number 2,000 has joined the airport fire service. Its place of work? Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida. Like all PANTHER models for the USA and Canada, the vehicle was built around 2,500 kilometers further north: at the Rosenbauer production facility in Wyoming, Minnesota.
When Rosenbauer's special Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF) vehicle was launched on the North American market in 2000, the Wyoming location consisted of just three production facilities. Today there are seven in total, and further expansion work is in progress. Close to 400 employees are currently employed at the site near the Canadian border.

Made for the North American market

The North American market is rather particular, largely due to the fact that airport firefighting vehicles generally have to meet three standards: those of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is relevant to Canada, and also the standards of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which specifically regulates airport firefighting in the USA. Rosenbauer has invested many years in the design of the PANTHER to meet all of these requirements.

Another unique factor is the climate. Northern Canada frequently has subzero temperatures, whereas tropical heat and humidity prevail in the southern states of the US. Some vehicles therefore have to be equipped with particularly powerful heating, and others with strong air conditioning and additional solar protection.

Fort Lauderdale: High rate of deployment

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport (FLL) in Florida is one of the busiest airports in the United States. While it has only two runways, around 1,000 take-offs and landings take place each day.  FLL is located between Miami International Airport to the south and Palm Beach International Airport to the north (Miami International Airport also relies on the PANTHER for their ARFF protection), which means that the airspace over Fort Lauderdale is rather crowded, and thus has a significant potential for incidents. There have been two major fire-related accidents in recent years, and both times the PANTHER was the first ARFF unit to put agent on the fire. Thanks to the good training of the response team and the modern foam equipment with which the PANTHER is equipped, there were no deaths.

PANTHER for FLL aiport

The 2,000th PANTHER is a classic 6x6 with an extendible roof turret and Stinger piercing tip along with a high volume low attack bumper turret. It is powered with a 700 hp Volvo Penta D16 Industrial engine, fitted with a 12,000-liter water tank and a 1,500-liter foam tank, as well as 250 kg of dry powder and Halotron auxilliary agents. The total weight when fully loaded is 80,000 lbs, or approximately40 tons. The windows of the cabin feature tinted glass. This reduces the intensity of the sun's rays in the 'Sunshine State', as Florida is known. The vehicle offers crew space for four people.

The number 2,000 will be remembered

When the firefighters in Florida heard their PANTHER would be the 2,000th in the model's history, there was a great deal of pride - so much in fact they plan to leave the sticker denoting the milestone number on the window. This will remind the team of the special nature of the vehicle and also make all visitors aware that a piece of Rosenbauer history is in service here. There was also a souvenir for the milestone customer, handmade by Rosenbauer employees: a small metal PANTHER cutout in a wooden frame, which will be placed in a visible location within the fire station.

The definitive highlight: the pushback ceremony

The honor the firefighters felt was evidenced by their revival of an old tradition: for the first time in the history of the Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport fire department, a vehicle was put into service with a so-called pushback ceremony. This ceremony has a long tradition in the United States and dates back to times when fires were fought by horse-drawn carriages fitted with water pumps. After each call the pumper would be unhooked from the horse, both would be cleaned and then pushed back into the bay.This has become a ritual that essentially symbolizes the preparation of a new vehicle going into operation for the fire service. In concrete terms, it involves an old vehicle or a vehicle from a neighboring fire department first spraying water onto the new addition to the fleet. A few words of blessing are then spoken, and the vehicle is pushed back into the bay by muscle power from the attendees.

Duane Kann, an employee of Rosenbauer America, was a guest at the pushback ceremony in Florida and knows how well this celebration was received: “Such events are important for morale. The police and fire services came together in a positive environment, which is rarely the case in their normal working life involving emergency responses. Additionally, the airport's management does not get a lot of opportunities to interact directly with the variety of people who protect their airport. The organization of this ceremony allowed the groups to come together and show their appreciation towards the work done by the fire department, while celebrating the addition of a new vehice to their fleet. " It looks like the 2,000th PANTHER has made an impression here even before its first deployment!