NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department firefighters changed BAK-12 aircraft arresting barriers March 13 as part of routine maintenance on the flightline at Nellis AFB.
With the BAK-12 aircraft arresting system there is no option for failure. Four BAK-12 aircraft arresting barriers span the entire width of the runways and are located in the overruns of the runway. The barriers depend on arresting hooks on aircraft. The barrier stops an aircraft by absorbing its forward momentum in a landing or aborted takeoff overrun. If barriers fail, aircraft and aircrew could be injured.
“The purpose of the BAK-12 aircraft arresting barriers is to recover fighter aircraft that have mechanical problems in flight so upon landing they will engage it with their tail hook,” said Master Sgt. Michael Wobser, 99th CES Fire Department assistant chief of operations. “When the aircraft lands and has a potential brake failure or hydraulic failure or anything of that nature, the barrier catches the aircraft to make sure they don’t go rolling off the end of the runway.”
The 99th CES firefighters are responsible for the upkeep of the barriers. In order to maintain barrier certifications throughout the year, the firefighters must receive monthly training.
“We go through a monthly proficiency training where we are trained by power production members,” Wobser said. “Power production members come in once a month and we do a classroom session as well as a hands-on training session out on the airfield.”
Barrier changes may occur often during a Red Flag exercise, but on a normal operation day the number of changes is reduced.
“It’s a real rarity for us to engage the barriers during normal flying operations, but during Red Flag the changes are more frequent up to 10 or 20 times a day easy,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Ryan, 99th CES Fire Department station captain. “Putting up and taking down the barriers is reduced to 5 or 10 times a month not during a Red Flag exercise.”
The importance of knowing how and when to take barriers down and put them up is part of a duty shared by the firefighters and barrier maintenance.
“As first responders we are normally the first ones out to the flightline,” Ryan said. “We man this fire station 24 hours a day and we team up with barrier maintenance because we are trained by them. We have the most experience as well as manpower to assist with barriers.”