ST. GEORGE – At approximately 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, Blue Angel No. 7, piloted by Lt. Ryan Chamberlain, landed at the St. George Municipal Airport to test and certify the installation of the BAK-12 Mobile Aircraft Arresting System, or MAAS.
“It will start looking and sounding a little more like an air show out at the St. George Municipal Airport today as the first F/A-18 Hornet from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels arrives,” Herb Gillen announced from the Herb Gillen public relations office, the PR department for the Blue Angels.
Prior to the Blue Angels performing at any air show, an emergency braking system must be installed and checked for flawless operation. This type of emergency equipment is permanently mounted on all military bases that support fighter jets.
Since the St. George Airport does not typically have fighter jets landing on its runway, a temporary emergency cable had to be set up.
The MAAS works very much like the landing cable on an aircraft carrier – an emergency braking system for aircraft equipped with tailhooks. It is used in emergency situations when a fighter aircraft may need assistance with coming to a stop after an in-flight emergency, after a mechanical failure has occurred that a pilot cannot correct prior to landing.
Typically, it takes a crew two days to properly install a BAK-12 at a remote location. Special 66-inch-long aluminum alloy stakes must be driven into the ground as part of the arresting system. The Navy and the Air Force work together when it comes to air shows like Thunder Over Utah.
To test the system, Blue Angel No. 7 sped down the runway at 100 knots (115 miles per hour), then dropped the tailhook down to grab the cable that has been stretched across the runway.
Joint forces combined to get the task completed. Engineers and supporting United States Air Force personnel came up from Nellis AFB last week to work on the MAAS.
“Our ground here is a little harder due to 95 to 99 percent compaction. Engineers spent a half-day out here laying out where they were going to put it. It needs to be 1,500 feet from the end of the runway,” St. George Municipal Airport Operations Supervisor and Security Coordinator Brad Kitchen said.
The MAAS emergency braking system uses controlled friction to apply resistance to the cable so that it can stop a fighter aircraft in as little as 1,000 feet. Tires are used to prop up the cable, along with small rollers on the cable, to make sure the tailhook grabs the cable as it passes over it.
Once a fighter jet has come to a stop, one of the restraining devices is locked. The jet pulls against the cable and then springs back so that the hook will disengage from the cable. This allows for quick readying for additional aircraft, if required.
“I think it’s great,” Kitchen said of Thunder Over Utah. “We have a lot of people from out of town coming into the air show. We have a lot of prior-permission-required (PPR) aircraft coming to fly in for the air show – a lot more than two years ago.
“Come on out and enjoy your new airport and the Blue Angels. There is a lot to see and do, so come out and enjoy the action.”
The 2014 Thunder Over Utah Air Show, featuring the United States Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Golden Knights, will take to the skies July 25-27 at the St. George Municipal Airport. Advance discount tickets and additional information are available at www.ThunderOverUtah.com.
Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.
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