News>Maintenance squadron recovery team gets 'hooked' on training
A firefighter with the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron directs an 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot after an arrest-kit cable test April 11, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The cable system acts as an emergency brake for incoming aircraft which may be experiencing technical difficulties that disable the pilot's ability to land. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Zachary Perras/Released)
Members of the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron check an 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon to ensure the engine did not catch fire April 11, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Crash recovery team members from the 354th Maintenance Squadron worked with the fire department to deploy the arresting cable system for annual certification training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/Released)
A firefighter from the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron inspects an arresting cable April 11, 2014, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The arresting cable system is tested annually and is designed to slow down an aircraft in an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/Released)
by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/17/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Members of the 354th Maintenance Squadron crash recovery team joined the fire department April 11 to test the durability of the arresting cable system.
The annual training certified the cable system which acts as an emergency brake for any aircraft experiencing technical difficulties and unable to land.
Once a pilot declares an in-flight emergency, they will notify the crash recovery team, which manually sets the cable in place. On landing, the pilot releases a hook from the aircraft, meant to catch the cable system which slows it down without springing it back too quickly.
"This training is very important because it's a life-saving device as well as an aircraft-saving tool," said Staff Sgt. Donald Hardy, 354th MXS crash recovery member. "During a landing emergency, we have to be able to approach an aircraft safely and get the runway open in a timely manner."
Members of the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department were also on scene to make sure the aircraft engine didn't catch on fire.
"During an engine malfunction, we make sure to respond with the fire department to double-check the aircraft is fire-safe so we can get it shut down and moved off the runway," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Hallen, 354th MXS crash recovery section chief. "During RED FLAG's, we're extremely busy and sometimes respond to up to four in-flight emergencies a day, so all of our equipment has to be ready to go because we never know when something is going to happen."
Although the team works year-round, during peak periods such as RF-A the crash recovery team is always ready in the event of an aircraft needing assistance.
"During RED FLAG, the flying window is early to late," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Hallen, 354th MXS crash recovery section chief. "We will physically be here manning the area until the active flying is done, after the last aircraft lands, we will then have a crew on standby to respond at any given time."
For some Airmen on the crash recovery team, training means more than just a chance to improve skills and get ready for a 'what-if' scenario, it means preparing for an experience which could lead to saving lives.
"I was unlucky enough to see a real-life emergency when I was deployed to Korea and everything from fear to excitement was felt during the incident," said Hardy. "Fortunately, the pilots used the arresting system to slow the aircraft once it landed and made it out without a scratch. When we have training like this, we do everything with a sense of urgency and do everything like we would if it was real."