Tail hooks help drastically reduce an aircraft's speed during landing, and would therefore reduce the necessity of having long runways.

So why doesn't tail hook technology be implemented into commercial aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ How much would a tail hook landing increase passenger discomfort? How much cost does tail hook systems everywhere compare to building a longer runway? What happens if the runway cable system were to fail or it was missed? What happens if the aircraft's tail hook system were to fail? How much more maintenance would cable systems require over some more concrete? How much stronger would cable systems need to be over say an aircraft carrier situation with little light(-ish) planes? $\endgroup$ May 4 '20 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Could airliners use a steam or electric powered catapult for take-off? $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    May 4 '20 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ A tailhook does not prevent you from building existing infrastructures (e.g. long runways) as it may fail to deploy and you don't want to close an airport because one ground infrastructure is inoperative (note that you can still operate an airport without ILS, you just have to modify minimums and separation) $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    May 5 '20 at 5:07

Because passengers really don't like enduring that kind of deceleration on landing. Scares them. Injures them. And if Junior is playing with his seatbelt latch at the wrong moment, there's a real risk of a fatal injury.

And because you still need the runways for any aircraft not equipped with this equipment, and for takeoffs.

If the Air Force doesn't want to equip all their jets with the equipment (weight, cost, complexity) involved with arrested landings, the chance that the world of civil aviation will want to is roughly zero point zero zero.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer. Just as a short addition: Maximum Autobreak usage on an airliner is already something your average passenger does not appreciate too much. $\endgroup$
    – wowpatrick
    May 5 '20 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ The aircraft that the Navy uses to fly passengers to aircraft carriers, the Grumman C-2 Greyhound, has the seats facing the tail. I'm not saying that the public would tolerate the strong deceleration, but facing aft helps quite a bit. Of course changing airliner seats to face aft would itself be quite unpopular with the flying public, and probably increase air sickness. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    May 5 '20 at 15:29

Weight and cost.

A tailhook landing puts a great deal of stress on an airframe, airplane structures would have to be reinforced along the frame to distribute the force across it and hold together. Airplane passenger seats would need 4 or 5 point safety harnesses to keep the passengers from getting injured on landing. All that adds weight, which reduces payload capacity, and makes planes and plane fares much more expensive.

The arresting gear isn't free, and you need 2 sets per strip. An airport with 2 landing strips will need 4 sets of arresting gear with multiple wires. This would cost millions to install and maintain. Runways are much cheaper.

Plus, what will an airplane do if it fails to catch a wire? It can power up and take off again, if it has enough runway space to do so.

Oh, and how will the airplane take off in the first place? It has to have enough runway to do so, unless you plan to install rocket assisted take-off systems or afterburners to commercial jets.


I don't know if you've seen videos of aircraft carrier landings, but:

1) They have to slam the aircraft into the ground to guarantee the hook will connect. The G forces from this and the subsequent rapid deceleration are too high for your grandma to cope with, so passenger numbers will fall, seatbelts need to be redesigned, and landing gear strengthened.

2) In case the cable breaks the pilots engage full throttle before touchdown so they can takeoff again, until the aircraft has stopped. Commercial aircraft do not have the thrust/weight ratio to takeoff in such a short distance from a reduced speed so a cable break will result in an overrun and possibly death.

3) The cost of all of this vastly outweighs the tiny benefit of having shorter runways.

  • $\begingroup$ Point 2 is not really correct. The aircraft already has the speed needed to lift off again, so it can rotate immediately if it misses the wire. The C-2 Greyhound used for transporting cargo and personnel to aircraft carriers does not have significantly higher thrust/weight ratio than other cargo aircraft. It is much sturdier though, of course. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    May 5 '20 at 21:48

In addition, to withstand carrier landings, planes with tail hooks have to be very stoutly constructed. This reduces their useful payload, something that commercial carriers want to avoid.


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