Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft arrestor systems are lifesaving devices used to preserve the life of the pilot and aircraft in the event of an emergency. Once a fastjet’s hook engages the cable, the arrestor system’s brakes rapidly decelerate the aircraft on the runway. The RAAF aircraft arrestor systems and their 3.5-tonne energy absorbers can catch and stop aircraft that weigh up to 40 tonnes, travelling at somewhere around 200 km/hr. Serviced every morning by Combat Support Group’s Mechanical Equipment Operations and Maintenance Sections (MEOMS) at RAAF Bases Amberley, Williamtown, Richmond, Edinburgh, Pearce, Darwin and Townsville, the systems are always ready to go whenever RAAF fastjets are in the air.
In the event that a fast-jet pilot issues a ‘pan-pan’ for urgent assistance and requests use of the aircraft arrestor system, air traffic controllers release the cable. The arrestor cable rises from below the runway to about 5cm above the surface, where it waits for the fast-jet’s hook to engage the cable as the aircraft lands and passes over the top. Once the hook engages the cable, the arrestor system’s brakes rapidly decelerate the fast jet as it travels along the runway. With a system near each end of the runway, the second cable can be used in the event that an aircraft aborts take off or where, upon landing, an aircraft’s hook misses the first cable and is unable to take off.