The Panther…Four Figures and Up To Eight Wheels

International standard vehicles. A line-up of Panthers destined for (from the left) London-Stansted, Dusseldorf and the New Doha airports is seen at Rosenbauer’s test track in St Valentin, Austria. (KEY-Tom Allett)

Rosenbauer’s Panther fire-fighting vehicle has surpassed the 1,000-order milestone. Tom Allett reports.

International standard vehicles. A line-up of Panthers destined for (from the left) London-Stansted, Dusseldorf and the New Doha airports is seen at Rosenbauer’s test track in St Valentin, Austria. (KEY-Tom Allett)

Ceremonial keys for the 999th, 1,000th and 1,001st Rosenbauer Panther fire-fighting vehicles to be ordered were presented at a ceremony at Linz Airport, Austria, on May 14.  The ‘keys’ were received from Rosenbauer’s CEO, Dr Dieter Siegel, by representatives from Dusseldorf (999), Stansted (1,000) and the New Doha (1,001) airports.
 
Specifications
The prototype Panther was unveiled in 1991 and the honour of introducing the first example into service went to Geneva Airport in 1992.  Today the Panther series of vehicles, instantly recognisable from their panoramic windshields at the front of the driver’s cabin, includes trucks with two, three and four-axle chassis, permanent all-wheel drive, engine capacities of 500 to 1,260hp and tanks capable of handling 1,320 to 4,179 imperial gallons (6,000 to 19,000 litres) of water.  Such is the variety of options available, a difference of over 13ft (4m) and 30 tonnes exists between the smallest Panther – the 4×4 air transportable version which is designed to fit inside a Lockheed Hercules transport aircraft – and its 8×8 long-wheelbase ‘big brother’.  The manufacturer says that all of the variants meet the most important standards and safety regulations for ICAO, FAA (USA), ADV (Germany) and NFPA (USA and US-influenced states) aircraft rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) regulations.
Dusseldorf Airport received its first Panther in 1995 and this latest edition – an 8×8 short-wheelbase chassis version – is its eighth.  Two more are already on order.  The landmark 1000th Panther vehicle – a 6×6 chassis – was due to be delivered to London Stansted Airport in June, as this edition went to press.  It should enter service by the end of June, after its fire crews have completed their local training on the vehicle.  It is the UK’s first airport fire truck to have rear-wheel steering amongst its specifications.
Doha’s long-wheelbase 8×8 is part of an order for 20 Rosenbauer airport fire-fighting vehicles that includes four Panther 4×4 and eight 8×8 machines.  All are due to be delivered in time for the new airport’s official opening ceremony on December 12, 2012.
 
Markets
Rosenbauer is riding particularly high at the moment thanks to several recent high-value orders for its products.  These are headlined by a massive 1,125-vehicle contract worth €245.3 million (US$307m) from Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defence Force.  In an extension of its work with Sweden’s Volvo Penta, Rosenbauer has signed a supply contract that will lead to the truck manufacturer’s diesel-powered Euro-5 emission category engines being available as an option for Rosenbauer’s premium class of vehicles.
In terms of airport fire-fighting sales, the Panther is clearly the number-one vehicle at the moment.  It has achieved orders from 81 countries, with Rosenbauer revealing that its top ten markets for the Panther are currently India, the USA, Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Germany, China, Great Britain, Japan and Spain.  The company is about to open a new production line in Traun, near Linz, to cope with the demand.