Monday, September 10, 2007

Hot Time in Roswell

What's wrong with this picture?

This is a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar airplane being dismantled at Roswell Industrial Air Center. The jaws of the machinery cut through a wing tank that had some residual fuel left in it and caught fire at about 12:17 pm Sept. 5, 2007.

The Roswell Daily Record’s Staff Writer Duane Barbati wrote that Roswell Fire Department Division Chief Ruben Sanchez said the fire was out within five minutes.

The internal digital clock within my camera indicated my first frame was shot at 12:18 pm shortly after the fire stared. Airport fire engines backed up by the Roswell Fire Department put retardant on the plane at 12:21 pm. The airport’s fire engine shut down its water foam mixture at 12:27 pm for the first time amidst white smoke, some nine minutes after the fire started.

If I had been a passenger sitting on the runway in a large plane like this with a wing on fire, I’m sure I would not have thought the response quick enough. This fire was fed by leftover fuel or vapors according to the record’s quoting of RIAC’s Spokesman Dennis Ybarra.

Flames were not visible yet there was white smoke. “Black smoke indicates that a fire has fuel to feed it,” said Emergency Manager Teresa Barncastle of the Roswell/Chavez County Office of Emergency Management, who is investigating the incident. While white smoke means the fire has lost its fuel source.

We were in Roswell to cover an economic event, the inaugural jet service to and from Dallas by American Eagle, a feeder division of American Airlines.

Overheard amongst some of the assembled Roswell folks was a conversation, upon seeing the billowing black cloud, there was a sense of apprehension that the main event had crashed. About the same time, a flight of two New Mexico Air National Guard F-16s roared overhead practicing instrument approaches and another comment was overheard, hoping that it was not an inappropriate fly-over demonstration.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Roswellians seem to be a little sensitive when it comes to aircraft publicity. Several years ago, local State Representative and Minority Whip Dan Foley had arranged for a National Guard flyover for the grand opening of a local Toyota dealership. The resulting publicity is a sore point in town.

Of course the 1947 Roswell Unidentified Flying Object incident is a big draw on its sixtieth anniversary in July. There is an UFO museum in town and officials wear lapel pins touting the event.

It seems easier to put out a scrapped airplane fire than it is the UFO controversy.

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