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 1960 American LaFrance 100' Tractor-Drawn Tillered Aerial

         (Apparatus #272)

                                                                                                                             Boeing Airplane Company photo

The Jet Era

On January 27, 1961, the Seattle Fire Department took delivery of the World's first production turbine-engine powered fire truck.  Costing $52,498.16, and dubbed the "Turbo Chief", the rig was a 1960 American LaFrance "900" series 100-foot tractor-drawn tillered aerial.  It was powered by a 324-horsepower model 502-10MA Boeing gas-turbine engine, distinguished in appearance by a huge stainless steel exhaust stack.

The turbine engine had many advantages over standard engines.  It was light weight, weighing only 335 pounds, and was one-tenth the size of a conventional engine.  With slight adjustments, it could burn gasoline, kerosene, jet-engine fuel, or diesel oil.  It had exceptional acceleration and hill climbing ability.  During tests, the 15-ton apparatus went from a standing start to 50 miles per hour in 31 seconds, and it took 56 seconds to reach 50 miles per hour on an eight-percent grade.  It needed no warm up time in sub-zero temperatures, and the elimination of an engine cooling system made for simplicity and reduced maintenance costs.

The purchase contract with Boeing and American LaFrance stipulated that the original power plant would be replaced at no cost to the city should the gas turbine installation be determined to be unsuitable.  Although the gas turbine did provide modest "compression" to retard the truck, it was not as quick to "spool down" as a reciprocating engine so the rig needed to be driven with that in mind.  In actual emergency service, however, the drivers' tendencies to "ride" the brakes resulted in unanticipated wear to the tractor's original extra-wide brake shoes and drums which caused the rig to be out of service an excessive amount of time.  Thus, the rig was returned to American LaFrance for engine replacement.  It was returned to Seattle on November 27, 1962, with a new 323-horsepower Hall-Scott engine and Fuller standard transmission.  On July 1, 1977, a new 350-horsepower Detroit diesel engine and Allison automatic transmission were installed, the rig was completely repainted and the tiller cab enclosed.  With the rig once again looking like new, it would serve the S.F.D. for another 14 years.

                                                                                                                                                                              American LaFrance photo

                                    App 272  (Factory Photo, Elmira NY)  1960


                                                                                                                                         Boeing Airplane Company photo
App 272  (On the runway at Boeing Field, Seattle WA)  1960


                                     App 272  (Delivery Photo, Seattle WA)  1960 


                                App 272  (Promotional Photo, Seattle WA)  1960

Photo credit: Seattle P-I collection, MOHA I 
                 App 272  (
Seattle Fire Chief William Fitzgerald & City Council Members)  1960





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                                                                                                                       Photo credit: Seattle P-I collection, MOHA I 
                                        App 272  (
Media demonstration)  1960



                             App 272  (Ladder 1 with Boeing Gas Turbine Engine)  1961


                          App 272  (Ladder 1 with Hall-Scott Model 1091 Engine)  1962


                        App 272  (Ladder 4 with Detroit Diesel Model 8V-71 Engine)  1978 



                                                 App 272  (Ladder 4)  1982


                                                 App 272  (Ladder 4)  1986

                                                 App 272  (Ladder 4)  1986


                                   ~  Apparatus 272 Company Assignments  ~

                    1961-1961                            Ladder 1     301-2nd Ave S (Station 10)
                         1961-1962                            At American LaFrance for engine replacement
                         1962-1970                            Ladder 1     301-2nd Ave S (Station 10)
                         1970-1989                            Ladder 4      2334-4th Ave (Station 2)
                         1989-1991                            Reserve
                         1991 . . . .                           Sold   


                                      ~  The Stations  ~

                                SFD Fire Station #10  (1928-2008)
                                  SFD Headquarters (1928-present)
                           App 272  (Ladder 1)  4/1961 - 8/1961 & 1962-1970



                                          SFD Fire Station #2 (1921-present)
                                              App 272  (Ladder 4)  1970-1989









                                    San Francisco's "Turbo Chief" went into service 18 days after Seattle's on May 2, 1961 

                                                                               It was re-powered on August 18, 1966 


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