Testing the Runway Barrier

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt, Eric Peterson
  • 120th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The March Unit Training Assembly provided an opportunity for members of the 120th Fighter Wing to test the runway aircraft arresting system designed to stop military aircraft in the event of an emergency.

The Barrier Arresting Kit 12/14 consists of two identical systems installed on runways 03 and 21and is required to be certified in an engagement exercise on an annual basis.

During the certification engagement exercise, a Montana Air National Guard F-15 Eagle fighter jet sped down the runway travelling at 100 knots. The aircraft's tail hook was deployed by the pilot, snagging the cable that had been raised above the runway remotely by an FAA Air Traffic Controller. Attached to the cable is a nylon tape that is extended as the aircraft continues its forward motion. The tape is wound around storage reels located in vaults buried on either side of the runway. Inside the vault brakes were applied to the turning reels of tape that provided the resistance needed to slow the aircraft to a gradual and safe stop just 300 yards away.

The BAK 12/14 is similar to the aircraft arresting equipment operated on United States Navy aircraft carriers. The barrier system located at the Great Falls International Airport is designed to stop any tail hook-equipped aircraft operated by the military.

The members assigned to the Electrical Power Production Section of the 120th Civil Engineer Squadron are responsible for conducting the annual test of the two runway barrier systems. The system test also involved members of the Fire Department, Airmen assigned to the Maintenance and Operations Groups and the FAA Air Traffic Controllers.

According to Tech. Sgt. Bob Decker, Electrical Power Production Craftsman, the scheduled daily, monthly and annual tests and inspections of the barriers are important to ensure that the system will save lives and valuable aircraft if the equipment is ever needed.
"The regular inspections of the barrier system are important because the arresting cable can be taken at any time. We can't predict when an aircraft is going to need this equipment so it's important to have it ready all the time," said Decker.

There was a set time limit of 15 minutes for the MTANG Airmen to complete the certification engagement exercise and the team completed the certification in 13 minutes. Decker said the aircraft arresting system operated exactly as it was designed to work.

"It just has to do what it's meant to do, which is stop the aircraft in a straight line. It went good and we're certified for another year," he said.

Staff Sgt. Caleb Sullins serves as an Electrical Power Production Journeyman and is one of three trained CE personnel certified to maintain the BAK 12/14 equipment. He said the exercise provided a valuable training opportunity for all of the team members that participated.

"During the certification you see it in place and it actually functions like it's supposed to. It's not something that happens every day but it's there when you need it and it works so it's nice to see," Sullins said.

The BAK 12/14 installed at the Great Falls International Airport is the only barrier system of its type located in the state of Montana. The next closest barrier system for military aircraft is located at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.