Foreign Object Debris (FOD) refers to any objects found in inappropriate airside locations that can damage people or equipment. These, sometimes seemingly innocuous, objects can be both costly for airline and airport operators, as well as contractors operating airside, and threaten the health and safety of airside personnel and passengers.
When, in 2000, the Air France Concorde hit FOD on the runway, it caused tyre damage that entered the plane’s fuel tank. The resulting leak and fire caused the aircraft to crash, killing 100 passengers, nine crew, and four people on the ground.
The dangers of FOD aren’t restricted to runways either. Taxiway and apron FOD can be blown onto runways by jet blast, while debris in maintenance areas can cause damage to aircraft, other airport vehicles and personnel too. In 2013, a Boeing 737-800 was damaged when a rag used by the company’s maintenance facility became trapped in the forward cable drum windings.
Aircraft manufacturer Boeing estimates that FOD costs the industry $4 billion a year.
In addition to the costs of repairing damaged aircraft, the aviation industry incurs many indirect costs, among them flight delays, decreased fuel efficiencies, workforce absences and legal cases.
What is Foreign Object Debris?
Foreign Object Debris consists of anything on airside surfaces that could ultimately damage an aircraft or other vehicle, or cause injury to a person. Broken aircraft parts, discarded tools, used rags and cloths, empty containers and rubbish of practically any kind can be classed as FOD.
Poor maintenance of buildings, equipment and aircraft can also contribute to FOD, while inadequate staff training may mean that airside personnel do not understand the severity of careless actions. Staff working quickly to turn aircraft around and meet tight schedules, may overlook the importance of clearing up. Poor weather, too, can contribute to FOD, with high winds blowing loose debris around.
How to prevent FOD
Measures to reduce FOD include regular airfield inspections to remove debris, and informing Air Traffic Control and suspending runway operations until FOD is cleared. Frequent checks of airfield buildings and equipment for items that could become FOD should also be undertaken, and organisations working airside should adopt inspection systems and FOD control programmes.
Regular maintenance should include wind barriers, sweeping and using magnetic bars to pick up metallic materials. Rumble strips at boundaries from landside to airside and by construction areas help dislodge debris from vehicles.
Placing receptacles for FOD at regular intervals and key places around the apron will also assist in keeping airside areas debris-free. The WEARMASTER® FOD Bag from Contego Safety Solutions is designed to raise awareness among ground staff of the importance of disposing of anything that could become FOD and provides a safe convenient method for collection. Primarily designed to fit to belt loaders and high lift platforms, this FOD collection can be fitted at many convenient locations.
Made from reinforced, PVC-coated polyester, the WEARMASTER® FOD Bag has a 7.8 litre capacity, features drainage holes and a full height, side access zip for easy emptying, and can be fully customised in your company’s branding.
Facilities such as FOD bags make it easy to dispose of debris and also help spread the message to staff of the importance of staying vigilant to potential FOD. Adding strong messaging to disposal facilities, such as BA’s ‘Keep them flying – bag all FOD’ message on their WEARMASTER® FOD Bags also helps to raise awareness of the consequences of ignoring FOD.
Posters, signs and recurrent training will also hammer the message home, as do events, such as the annual UK Airports Safety Week, taking place this week.
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