***image1***A new system to help fighter aircraft land safely during take off or landing during a brake failure or any other emergency situation was recently installed at Balad Air Base, Iraq, by two airmen and a team deployed from Germany.
The purpose of the system is two-fold “to save the pilot’s life and the aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. William Brown, NCO in charge of the 435th Civil Engineer Construction Training Squadron from Ramstein Air Base. Sergeant Brown’s team has been in the area of responsibility since December installing the mobile aircraft arresting systems. Balad’s is the fifth system to be installed in the area of operation in the event a fighter aircraft must be diverted.
“It can stop an aircraft at about 1,200 feet,” said Sergeant Brown.
The BAK-12 Mobile Aircraft Arrest System is the standard operational aircraft arresting system, said Sergeant Brown. The 10-man CES team from power production, electrical, engineering assistant and pavement and grounds worked four days to install the system on the flightline.
“It was a lot of work,” said Senior Airman Andrew Renner, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron power production journeyman, who will be responsible for the maintenance on the new barrier system. “We drilled in 156 stakes – it took us three days.”
The MAAS has two BAK-12s or trailers or either side of the runway. Each weighs approximately 19,000 pounds and is held down by 5.5-foot long stakes – 78 per side – that must be driven four feet into the ground.
“We didn’t have the right equipment so it took longer,” said Airman Renner, deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan. “We had to use older equipment, so there was a lot more pushing on the stakes.”
Because the equipment is older, a lot more physical effort was needed to set up the system – three people held a stake in place while one person operated the 80-pound jackhammer. The team also dealt with heavy rain and was forced to depart the work site when aircraft landed or took off.
“There was a lot of aircraft flying,” said Staff Sgt. John Vasquez, 332nd ECES NCOIC of barrier maintenance, who is also deployed from Kadena. “It was pretty unforgettable.”
The system is somewhat like the ones used on Navy aircraft carriers. Unlike the Navy who uses the system for every landing on a ship, the Air Force only uses the system for fighter aircraft emergencies such as a total hydraulic failure or hot brakes.
The MAAS has two rotary friction energy absorbers, also called arresting engines. Each absorber has two four-rotor Bliss brakes mounted on a common shaft along with a 1,200-foot, 7-inch-wide nylon tape storage reel. The nylon tape is connected to a 1.25-inch steel cable that is linked to the absorber on the opposite side of the runway.
In the event of an in-flight emergency, the pilot lowers the plane’s tailhook before landing and the tailhook engages the steel cable. The pressure applied to the brakes creates friction. Like the system in an automobile, the energy of the aircraft’s forward momentum is converted to heat, slowing the aircraft to a smooth, safe stop.