Munich Airport Fire Department: Fire and Flame for the Panther with Allison Fully Automatic Transmissions

The fire brigade at Munich Airport, Germany's second-largest airport, operates four new Rosenbauer Panther 8x8 vehicles. To enable the 52-tonne colossi to reach any part of the airport within 180 seconds, two Allison fully automatic transmissions were installed in each truck. Allison Transmission's Continuous Power Technology® helps accelerate the vehicles from 0 to 50 mph (0 to 80 km/h) in 20 seconds.

MUNICH, Germany, November 2023 - The siren wails. "Standby alarm at Munich Airport, smoke in the engine of a passenger jet on approach," says the loudspeaker announcing the drill. The two firefighters Michael and Marco know exactly what to do now, having practiced every detail hundreds of times: They run to their fire truck, press the quick-start button as they pass, and jump into their boots and trousers. At the same time the vehicle electronics of the engines start up, the swing doors open and the hangar doors move up. Off they go with 1,430 horsepower (1,450 PS - 1,030 kilowatts) to the taxiway. Two continuously pre-heated Volvo engines and two 4800R Allison fully automatic transmissions accelerate the 52-tonne Panther to 74.6 mph (120 km/h) in seconds. Flames are bursting from the aircraft's left engine. Highly concentrated, Michael positions the huge vehicle in extinguishing position, while Marco spreads a foam carpet under the aircraft, directs the Stinger extinguishing arm and focuses the Panther’s full extinguishing power onto the burning jet. After a short time, the flames are extinguished. Other fire engines position themselves in front of and behind the aircraft to cool the hull and start the post-extinguishing work.

Maximum 180 seconds for approach and initial extinguishing measures. A maximum of two minutes until all extinguishing agents on board are deployed. In just under five minutes, the two young firefighters have completed their mission with the Panther. "In an emergency, precision and speed are indispensable. The Panther is currently our largest firefighting vehicle and, depending on the alarm, it is of course used as a first-strike firefighting vehicle," says Jürgen Reichhuber, head of vehicle technology at Flughafen München GmbH’s airport fire department, describing the impressive and realistic way in which the exercise is carried out by the fire department on a regular basis.

“The Munich Airport Fire Brigade is proud of its unique training facility, its modern and innovative equipment, its highly professional team and, last but not least, its fleet of fire engines, which includes four new Panther vehicles,” says Florian Klein, Deputy Chief of the Airport Fire Department. The Panther 8x8s were put into service between 2020 and 2022, replacing older fire engines. Two of the Panther trucks are equipped with roof-mounted turrets and the other two have Stinger extinguishing arms, which enable aircraft firefighting from almost any attack position.

Following a Europe-wide tender-process, Flughafen München GmbH opted for this vehicle configuration in order to achieve maximum impact, acceleration and robustness with an increase in vehicle control and comfort for the crew. In order to be able to move the 52-tonne truck quickly and in a controlled manner at top speed in the event of an emergency, engine power and torque must be transmitted completely and without interruption of tractive effort to the eight wheels. The Allison fully automatic transmission with patented torque converter and uninterrupted full-power shifts provides superior acceleration and seamless traction.

Each emergency demands top performance from the drivers: They have to maneuver the imposing vehicle to the incident site at breakneck speed and safely and, if necessary, simultaneously start the firefighting operation. This requires perfect coordination of several completely different tasks. “In an emergency, every driver must be able to master all vehicles, including the Panther. It has been shown that operators find it extremely easy to drive and handle the fully automatic transmissions and feel very confident with them. Given the demanding nature of the equipment that has to be operated simultaneously, this is an enormous advantage. A fully automatic transmission like this is really a valuable support,” says Michael Eder, operator and driving instructor of the Panther.

“We have consistently been ordering vehicles with automatic torque converter transmissions for several years now. Now, 90% of our vehicles are equipped with fully automatic transmissions, and about two-thirds of the fleet is equipped with Allison technology. They hardly have any failures, their reliability is extremely high, and their maneuverability is very good," says Reichhuber. "The torque converter allows the vehicle to be maneuvered very sensitively and precisely.”

The Panther vehicles represent the “royal class” among Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) vehicles. At 42.6 feet (13 meters) long, 9.8 feet (3 meters) wide and 13 feet (4 meters) high, their dimensions are enormous and their power is gigantic, too. The power units installed in the Munich 8x8 Panthers are two Volvo D16 Euro 6 engines with a combined output of 1,430 horsepower (1,030 kilowatts – 1,450 PS). Two Allison 4800R fully automatic transmissions with torque converter and retarder shift through quickly in the heavy vehicles and enable acceleration from 0 to 50 mph in about 20 seconds. Top speed is limited to 84 mph (135 km/h).

This twin-engine technology is required to enable the Panther to make the sprint to the scene of an emergency on the entire flight operations area within three minutes, according to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) specifications.

The extinguishing water tank holds 12,500 liters (3,302.5 gallons) of water as well as 1,500 liters (396.3 gallons) of foam agent. The vehicles with a Stinger extinguishing arm carry an additional 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) of extinguishing powder. The models with roof-mounted turrets are equipped with a carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishing system and carry 120 kilograms (264.55 pounds) of CO2. The built-in pump has a capacity of up to 10,000 liters per minute (2,641.72 gallons per minute), and the electronically controlled turrets deliver up to 6,000 liters per minute (1,585 gallons per minute) with the RM65 turret on the extinguishing arm or up to 4,750 liters per minute (1,254.82 gallons per minute) with the RM35C turret on the bumper.

Furthermore, the Panther trucks are equipped with rapid attack hose reels and self-protection nozzles in the event that kerosene flows under the vehicle. If necessary, the entire onboard supply of fire extinguishing agents can be discharged in less than 90 seconds. Turrets and ground spray nozzles can also be activated during approach by switching to Pump & Roll operation.

Allison Transmissions
The Allison 4800 fully automatic transmission has been optimized specifically for the demands of emergency vehicles. With full-power shifting and the hydrodynamic torque converter, Allison transmissions deliver impressive acceleration performance. Allison's torque converter multiplies engine torque during start-up and acceleration delivering more power to the wheels. There is no loss of traction during gear changes, providing a seamless transfer of power to the drive wheels and maximizing engine and transmission efficiency. The Allison torque converter transmission enables the Volvo engines to fully utilize their torque capacity. As a result, the Rosenbauer heavy-duty chassis implements uncompromising tractive power and acceleration for emergency vehicles.

Allison transmissions have proven to be extremely reliable at the Munich Airport Fire Department, requiring only minimal maintenance. The integrated hydraulic retarder and power take-off have also proven to be very low maintenance. Rosenbauer has been supported with fully automatic transmission solutions, aftermarket services and spare parts for their vehicle platforms through K&W Drive Systems, the Allison Authorized Distributor for Austria.

Because of their tremendous reliability and robustness, Allison fully automatic transmissions are used by numerous firefighting fleets. Airport operators around the world rely on first-response vehicles with Allison fully automatic transmissions, such as the Rosenbauer Panther.

See the Panther in action at the Munich Airport Fire Brigade. Please visit YouTube:

Inferno at the push of a button: Training in the simulation facility
To keep Flughafen München GmbH’s 260 or so firefighters in practice, drills are regularly conducted on the company's own fire protection training facility. The impressive aircraft mock-up in the shape of a Boeing 747 is twelve meters (39.37 feet) high, 44 meters (144 feet) long and 35 meters (114.82 feet) wide and looks just like a “real” aircraft. An additional engine is installed on the tail. This allows firefighters to practice firefighting from the outside, as well as training scenarios that take place inside an aircraft. From a fire in the cockpit to a fire in the cabin or cargo hold, the fire brigade can simulate any type of emergency.

The rust-brown mock-up at Munich Airport is one of the most advanced fire simulation facilities in all of Germany. Computer-controlled technology opens up completely new possibilities. For example, the effects of various extinguishing agents can be simulated without actually using foams or powders. For a number of years now, liquefied gas has been used instead of kerosene for firing, which significantly reduces emissions and avoids clouds of black soot.

01 Dec, 2023


Allison Transmission (NYSE: ALSN) is a leading designer and manufacturer of vehicle propulsion solutions for commercial and defense vehicles, the largest global manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty fully automatic transmissions, and a leader in electrified propulsion systems that Improve the Way the World Works. Allison products are used in a wide variety of applications, including on-highway trucks (distribution, refuse, construction, fire and emergency), buses (school, transit and coach), motorhomes, off-highway vehicles and equipment (energy, mining and construction applications) and defense vehicles (tactical wheeled and tracked). Founded in 1915, the company is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. With a presence in more than 150 countries, Allison has regional headquarters in the Netherlands, China and Brazil, manufacturing facilities in the USA, Hungary and India, as well as global engineering resources, including electrification engineering centers in Indianapolis, Indiana, Auburn Hills, Michigan and London in the United Kingdom. Allison also has approximately 1,600 independent distributor and dealer locations worldwide. For more information, visit