Foreign Object Debris (FOD) at airports includes any object found in an inappropriate location that, as a result of being in that location, can damage equipment or injure personnel. FOD includes a wide range of material, including loose hardware, pavement fragments, catering supplies, building materials, rocks, sand, pieces of luggage, and even wildlife. FOD is found at terminal gates, cargo aprons, taxiways, runways, and run-up pads.
The three main areas that require specific attention are:
- Runway FOD– this relates to various obects (fallen from aircraft or vehicles, broken ground equipment, birds, etc.) that are present on a runway that may adversely affect fast-moving aircraft (during take-off and landing). Runway FOD has the greatest potential of causing damage.
- Taxiway/Apron FOD– while this type of FOD may seem less harmful than the previous one, it should be noted that jet blast can easily move small objects onto the runway.
- Maintenance FOD– this relates to various objects, such as tools, materials or small parts) that are used in maintenance activities (e.g. aircraft maintenance, construction works, etc.) and can cause damage to aircraft.
Effects of FOD
FOD can cause damage in a number of ways, the most notable being:
- Damaging aircraft engines if ingested
- Cutting aircraft tires
- Lodging in aircraft mechanisms preventing them from operating properly
- Injuring people after being propelled by a jet blast or prop wash.
The resulting damage is estimated to cost the aerospace industry $4 billion a year.
A number of factors can affect the presence and handling of FOD, e.g.:
- Poor maintenance of buildings, equipment and aircraft.
- Inadequate staff training.
- Pressure on staff not to delay movements for inspection.
- Weather (e.g. FOD may be created by strong winds or may be blown onto the airfield or its detection can be hampered by adverse weather).
- Presence of uncontrolled (e.g. contractors’) vehicles on the airfield.
Responsibility for FOD Management
FOD-prevention and clearance is the responsibility of all airport users; however, specific responsibility must be allocated to appropriate persons who must be suitably trained and supervised. Quality assurance is an essential tool to ensure that responsible organizations and personnel carry out their allotted tasks correctly.
While the airport authority is responsible for the runways, taxiways and general maneuvering areas, airline representatives or handling agents are normally responsible for ensuring that the gate and its approaches are clear of FOD, including ground equipment, and are free of ice, snow or other contaminant capable of affecting braking action. Handling contracts must specify the extent of agents’ responsibilities and agents’ procedures must specify how these responsibilities are to be exercised.
Defence Against FOD
Defences against FOD include the following activities:
- Regular and frequent inspection of the airfield, including aircraft maneuvering areas and adjacent open spaces.
- Suspension of runway operations upon notification to ATC about FOD on or near the runway until FOD has been removed and the runway inspected, as necessary.
- Regular and frequent inspection of the airfield buildings and equipment and immediate repair or withdraw from service of items likely to create FOD.
- Inspection of the parking gate to ensure that it is free of FOD, including ground equipment, and of ice, snow or other material capable of reducing braking action (normally the responsibility of the airline representatives).
- Removal of FOD as soon as it is identified.
- Use of constant inspection systems (see subsection below for details).
- Implementing a FOD control program.
FOD Control Program
A program to control airport FOD is most effective when it addresses four main areas:
- All airport and airline personnel and airport tenants should receive training in the identification and elimination of FOD, including the potential consequences of ignoring it. This training can supplement the general FOD awareness incorporated into the airside driver-training curriculum at many airports. FOD training for flight crews includes following the recommended procedures identified in the Flight Crew Operating Manual and pre- and post-flight inspection procedures covered during line training. Effective training include procedures for removing and eliminating FOD at its source, and should be reinforced through the use of posters and signs. Recurrent training is necessary to help maintain an awareness of FOD.
- Inspection by airline, airport, and airplane handling agency personnel. Airline personnel, when feasible, should join the airport staff in daily airside inspections. This practice helps increase familiarity with local airfield conditions and promotes effective communication between the airport and airlines. Transportation Canada requires a daily, daylight inspection of aircraft maneuvering areas and removal of FOD. In addition to performing these inspections at the beginning of the day or shift, personnel on the airside should look for FOD during their normal shifts. On-going construction requires more frequent inspections. It may even be necessary to assign dedicated personnel to continually inspect for FOD during major construction activities. Flight crews should report to air traffic control and station operations any FOD they observe on runways and taxiways. Aircraft operators and handling agents should designate individuals to inspect aircraft parking stands prior to aircraft movement onto or off them.
FOD Management is everyone’s responsibility.