First responders and pilots: The follow-up

Now online: Powerpoint presentation for first responders

It was the day after Christmas 2011 when I filled this space with talk of first responders. Specifically, I wrote about the self-interest the aviation community has in reaching out to work with first responders before something bad happens. If you wait until flames erupt from wreckage on the runway, it’s probably too late to do anything meaningful in the way of preparation.

Remember your Boy Scout motto? Be prepared! That implies forethought. Heck, it even suggest that we should plan, prepare, and execute before we find ourselves up to our necks in swamp water. We learned that motto as kids, and we cared about it. Even our sisters knew the Boy Scout oath. And why not? We wouldn’t shut up about it back then. It meant something, even if we weren’t entirely sure what that something might be. “Be prepared” sounded important to us then. It was. It is. It will continue to be, too.

A work of a man named Douglas Manuel popped up in that Christmas column, too. Not because he sent me a huge box of presents that fall neatly into the, “It’s exactly what I wanted,” column. No. Douglas came to my attention because he’s a doer. He saw a void, he knew he had knowledge and connections that would allow him the opportunity to help others, so he did. That’s rare. It’s also very welcome, and absolutely deserving of praise.

Although I’ve never met Mr. Manuel, I like him. He’s the kind of guy who makes the world better as he passes through it. He sees a need and he meets it. There’s no money in it for him, no fame, no paparazzi waiting in the wings. There are no investment bankers following him around town, checkbooks open, pens at the ready. He’s just a regular guy who knew he could help, so he helped.

I like that.

So here we are slightly more than two months later and I am pleased to announce that you should prepare yourself to be on the receiving end of Mr. Manuel’s efforts. But, before we get to that, let me say this.

Another guy I think highly of is Ben Sclair. You may recognize the name from the masthead of this very publication, General Aviation News. Ben is the publisher, and lest anyone think he is anything less than fully committed to a vibrant, broad spectrum, safe general aviation marketplace, I’m going to do my best to make it clear that what’s being offered here is the doing of Douglas Manuel and Ben Sclair. My contribution is no more significant than typing a few words on a page. Mr. Manuel and Mr. Sclair, however, have joined forces to do something truly beneficial for general aviation and general aviators nationwide. Take a bow boys. You deserve it.

Douglas Manuel created a Powerpoint presentation designed to be a teaching tool for first responders in his region of the country. He hails from the Leesburg, Virginia, area, not far from Washington, D.C. It’s so not far from Washington D.C., that Leesburg is tucked into a corner of the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area. So he included information about that airspace that pilots would be expected to know, but first responders may be totally ignorant of. He indicates which way traffic could be expected to flow depending on which runway is in use.

That’s potentially important information to first responders who may be looking for an aircraft they believe to be in distress. After all, not everybody who has a problem makes it all the way to the runway. Knowing where to concentrate your search efforts can make the difference between a rescue operation, and a recovery process.

Mr. Manuel’s presentation also touches on important topics like fuel and its propensity to burn when exposed to an ignition source. So he explains in simple terms how to locate and close the fuel valves in an airplane. He covers the basics of aircraft electrical systems, too. Not everybody knows that the ignition switch in most airplanes doesn’t cut out the electrical system. So he explains how to shut down the master switch for those who wouldn’t even know to look for one. He even makes mention of devices that most first responders would have no idea they should be cautious of, such as ballistic parachute systems, airbags, and oxygen canisters.

I’ve gotten a staggering amount of email about this presentation since I first mentioned it in print. GAN readers really wanted to get a hold of a copy of this presentation. Thankfully, Mr. Manuel was kind enough to send me a copy of it for my own edification and with his permission I sent it along to Ben Sclair for consideration.

This is the part where you come in to the story. Because Ben was good enough to put his crack staff onto the project, and they’ve published it in its entirety for you to peruse at your leisure. You can find the presentation online where it plays as a simple-to-operate slide show.

Now if you live in Colorado, or Idaho, or the Florida Keys, the specific information about the Washington DC SFRA may not be of much interest or use to you. But the basic framework of the material is an exceptional starting point for the first responders teaching tool you could develop to use in your own community. I’ve already spoken to the police chief in my city and offered to share this information with his officers at his convenience. Happily, I can report he is receptive to the idea. I suspect your police chief and fire chief would be too.

So let me take one last pass at thanking Douglas Manuel and Ben Sclair for putting their efforts to good use in a way that has the potential to make each and every one of us safer and more secure when we fly, or even just visit the airport. Now it’s up to us to take the next step. I’m ready and raring to go. How about you?

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to You can reach him at


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  1. Andy Greenwood says

    Good Show
    I commented on this befor. A lot of Departments have to meet a minimum amount
    of annual training. This would be a good spot this presentation. Once thanks to
    Andy Greenwood(no relation to Lee) pilot, A/P-IA, Airport Manager (KMJD)
    Law Enforcement instructor

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