TUTORS dedicated to annually equipping 10,000 firefighters from across the world with skills to tackle blazes burning on runways have earned a royal honour.

The Serco International Fire Training Centre (IFTC), based on Darlington’s doorstep at Durham Tees Valley Airport, accommodates thousands of delegates from 80 countries to prepare them to face aviation, industrial, offshore and marine fires.

The globally-renowned expertise offered from the North-East site has been recognised for putting the region on the map with a Queen’s Award for Export that has been announced today.

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The prestigious accolade formally known as the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade, recognises organisations that contribute to the global reputation of the UK.

Since the IFTC opened its 19-acre training facility to the world in 1981, the centre has gone from strength to strength by adding major customers including NATO and the United Nations to its books.

In 1996, outsourcing company Serco took over the site which now employs 57 members of staff and 100 associated instructors.

IFTC representatives will now be invited to a royal reception at Buckingham Palace later this year in an event hosted by Her Majesty The Queen to receive their award.

Gary Watson, Serco’s business operations manager at IFTC, said: “We are thrilled to have won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise International Trade, which is testament to the hard work that the team at the IFTC in Darlington has been doing – contributing to the region’s exporting prowess, playing a vital role in upskilling firefighters from around the world, and keeping passengers and aviation facilities safe.”

NATO firefighters from Germany visited the North-East centre in November 2016 and were faced with tackling simulation and hypothetical scenarios of reacting to real life or death disasters at airports, chemical plants and oil rigs.

As part of their training, the group beat back 20ft-high blazes consuming the engine of an Airbus A380 on a simulation rig while saving the lives of deadweight dummies and extinguishing kerosene-based aviation fuel.

A £200,000 virtual reality simulator is also available to tutor firefighters on the theory of responding to aviation emergencies from the safety of a Durham Tees Valley Airport classroom.

Rupert Soames, Serco Group chief executive, said: “We are all immensely proud of the team at the IFTC and their achievements in training firefighters from around the world.

“The centre has superb training facilities that are second to none and it enjoys an excellent reputation with its customers for its professionalism.

“This awards also recognises the commitment and dedication of the team.”