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Liberty Engineers ensure flight safety

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christopher S. Sparks
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 48th Civil Engineer Squadron conducted a ten-year overhaul of the BAK-12 aircraft arresting system at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Nov. 22 - Nov. 30, 2020.

In the event of an in-flight emergency, the BAK-12 system provides an avenue for pilots to safely land and slow their aircraft. The system features a cable that stretches across the runway, secured on each side by two separate engines.

“It’s basically like an emergency braking system,” said Staff Sgt. Adrian Valenzuela, 48th CES aircraft arresting systems NCOIC. “If the aircraft has an in-flight emergency and can’t stop on their own, they use the system to ensure the safety of the pilot and the aircraft.”

When the BAK-12 is needed, a pilot can drop the tailhook from the aircraft after landing and use it to catch the braking system, enabling the aircraft to safely land.

“What’s unique about our arresting system is that it’s the most active in the United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa,” said Master Sgt. Jake Danielson Lumandog Smith, 48th Electrical Power Production section chief. “With as many engagements as we’ve had, you can really feel the impact and the importance of having the system ready to go at all times.”

The system must be tested if it has not been used within a year, and completely replaced every 10 years in order to maintain currency and remain within safety regulations. In coordination with the 435th Construction Training Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the old systems are traded with a newly overhauled engine.

“The new system will have a new engine, new clutch, and new brakes,” Valenzuela said. “Basically everything in the replacement system is new and overhauled. It’s a cycle of refurbishing old systems into new, usable ones.”

Given that this project occurs every ten years, it’s likely that some Airman may not have had the opportunity to participate and learn from this process. Fortunately, this project provides an opportunity for the 48th CES Airman to gain knowledge and learn new arresting systems skills, setting themselves up for future projects.

“Our Airmen will probably be non-commissioned officers in ten years,” Smith said. “It gives them the opportunity to fall back on this experience and use the skills they’ve learned to successfully complete a project of this scale.”

To remain USAFE-AFAFRICA’s premier combat wing, prioritizing the safety of Liberty Wing aircrew and aircraft are paramount and the main reason why the BAK-12 is utilized.

“If we didn’t have any aircraft arresting system, there would be no flying,” Valenzuela said. “We ensure our readiness by having a system in place to make sure our aircraft and pilots land safely, regardless of whether it’s a training mission or a real-world event.”