Barrier testing ensures safety

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(U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Ferreira)

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing located at the Tucson International Airport performed testing and certification this drill weekend on a barrier designed to stop a military aircraft in case of an emergency.

The exercise is performed annually to ensure equipment is ready to prevent a crash and save lives during an emergency situation.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon sped down the runway at TIA simulating a landing emergency. The pilot deployed the aircraft’s tail hook and caught a cable attached to a nylon tape that extends as the aircraft continues its forward motion.  The tape provided the necessary resistance to slow and stop the aircraft.

Tech. Sgt. Bryon Laplander a power support systems mechanic is one of five personnel certified to maintain the barrier equipment.  For this exercise he said his job was to observe and assist the fire department to ensure the task can be accomplished when support system mechanics are unavailable.

A serious emergency can happen anytime, so trained personnel must be available at all times. The Airmen from the 162nd fire department are here 24 hours a day and have been tasked to respond when needed.

This exercise was an opportunity to perfect our skills and ensure round-the-clock readiness, said Tech. Sgt. Drew Stonecipher with the base fire department.

As soon as the aircraft stopped, fire department personnel sprung to action.

“It is our job to ensure the aircraft is fire safe and evacuate the pilot immediately if necessary,” said Stonecipher.

The aircraft was declared safe, released from the barrier and cleared from the runway. All barrier equipment was then certified as ready to take on the duty of preventing disaster and keeping the runway safe at TIA.