MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
A fighter jet is soaring through the sky during a routine training mission when the pilot notices something is wrong. She radios the control tower announcing she’s preparing for an emergency landing. Approaching the runway, she turns off the engines and drops a tail hook that will catch a braking system on the runway, safely slowing down the aircraft.
This assembly is called a BAK-12 arresting system and after 10 years and new guidance, Moody’s 23d Civil Engineer Squadron power production shop is replacing every part of the system on the runway.
“This is important because it saves lives,” said Master Sgt. Dominique Carvin 23d CES NCOIC of power production, who has seen the system used more than 10 times. “The most important asset the Air Force has are people. So, yeah it saves the aircraft as well and saving that money is important, but the pilot’s life is priceless.”
The $250,000 system has to be tested at least once per year if it isn’t used during a real-world emergency during that year. Only fighter aircraft can use the BAK-12 because they’re the only aircraft with tail hooks. Moody doesn’t house any fighter aircraft, but has the system in place to support fighters that fly through our airspace from surrounding bases.
The BAK-12 slows down the aircraft by using modified B-52 Bliss Brakes on either side of the runway connected by a rope running across the runway.
“We synchronize the hydraulic pressures so it slows down the aircraft at an even rate and keeps it in the middle of the runway,” said Carvin. “I’ve seen these used throughout my career and it is definitely worth the money because it does what it is designed to do and more.”
Since the systems across the Air Force are only replaced every decade, the experience of working on one is invaluable.
“We learned about the system in technical training but [actually] working on it makes a world of difference,” said Senior Airman Matthew Melton, 23d CES power production journeyman. “The system is used for deployed environments but we have them stateside because sometimes things go wrong and this system is (the pilots) last resort to ensure they stop safely.”
Safety concerns are the reason the BAK-12 exists, but while some pilots marvel at the BAK-12’s ability to keep them safe, the Airmen that maintain it relish the responsibility of ensuring its readiness.
“We take great pride in following the technical orders and making sure things are done exactly how they need to be done,” Melton added. “Watching it tested during the annual certification and seeing everything go smoothly and knowing that if it was real world it would work is awesome. There’s no greater feeling than that.”