An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Barrier engagement testing ensures pilot safety

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Power production specialists from the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron conducted an aircraft arresting system certification test Oct. 30, 2016 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.


The Mobile Aircraft Arresting System is used at Bagram and is a cable setup used to catch tan aircraft’s arresting hook in case of malfunction upon landing or take off. Testing is required annually when a real-world barrier engagement has not taken place.


“We put an F-16 through the cable to see if it could stop that aircraft safely, saving a pilot’s life and also keeping damage from happening to the aircraft,” said Senior Airman Mathew Chapman, one of the power production specialists testing the system. “When the time comes, you want to make sure that system works correctly.”


The power production team works together to ensure the barrier systems are correctly installed. After that, an F-16 Fighting Falcon speeds down the runway, employing the aircraft’s arresting gear in time to be caught by the cable. The cable is attached to nylon tape wound around reels that apply the brake pressure needed to slow the aircraft and bring it to a safe stop.  


Capt. Mark Tappendorf, 93rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 pilot, calls it a last ditch effort to save the pilot and aircraft in case of an emergency and said it’s a valuable safety feature that he’s had to use in the past.


Ejecting can cause health problems for the pilot and damage to the aircraft, and the arresting cable prevents the need to employ that system.


“Most people do think that it’s science fiction, but its every day for us,” Chapman said. “It’s something we do in the real world. We save the pilot’s life and we save the Air Force a lot of money on those aircraft.”