Dangerous gas is quickly dispersed

– In the last few days there have been reports in the news media about the dangerous liquid hydrazine that can be found in the American-built aircraft F-16 Fighting Falcon. During exercise Loyal Arrow 2009, that goes on from June 8 to June 16, the F 21 airbase in Luleå will be the host to some F16 Fighting Falcons. This fluid turns into gas as it comes into contact with air. This gas is quickly dispersed, and if you are not inside the 50 m safety radius, then there is no danger, even if there is a strong wing blowing.

The American-built F-16 Fighting Falcon. Photo: Louise Levin

Even in the case of a leakage along the runway, air passengers at the Luleå Airport will never come into contact with the hydrazine, since the distance between the runway and the terminal is more than 400 meters, more than 350 meters outside the safety radius.

“Hydrazine, a kind of rocket fuel, is highly volatile. It will evaporate rapidly. In case of fire, it will disappear at once,” says Anders Jonsson, Air Base Commander at the F 21 Wing.

The American-built F-16 Fighting Falcon has an EPU – Emergency Power Unit – that within half a second of activation will supply the aircraft with emergency power if there is a failure in the hydraulic, electrical, or engine systems. This is to ensure that a safe landing can be carried out.

The dangerous substance is in the EPU, it is powered by hydrazine hydrate, a mixture of hydrazine and water

Good preparedness

The Wing has good preparedness to handle any leakages of the poisonous liquid. In the emergency rescue instructions, which have been elaborated at the Wing, there are descriptions for the actions to be carried out in different emergency situations. The county council emergency rescue services are also involved, since they are the ones to carry out any emergency rescue needed.
“Our preparedness is good, and we will initially carry out any emergency rescue,” says Anders Jonsson.

Visiting units with F-16 aircraft have specially equipped teams that are trained to take care of any leaks of hydrazine.

In case of exposure to hydrazine, the casualty will have to be cleaned and have medical treatment.
Both the Wing and the Sunderby Hospital carry stocks of the antidote, pyridoxine hydrochloride.

During the exercise, Turkish and Portuguese F-16 aircraft will fly from the F 21 airbase in Luleå, and the Norwegian aircraft will fly from Bodø.

FACTS - Hydrazine

  • Hydrazine is a flammable, highly explosive, toxic, and etching liquid. Colourless and oil-like in consistency, with a smell similar to ammonia or sour fish.
  • The boiling point is -52°C.
  • The fluid turns into gas as it comes into contact with air.