Foreign Object Debris (FOD) poses a threat to aircraft safety and the profitability of aviation-related businesses, causing billions of dollars in losses to the aviation industry each year. Finding effective methods of combatting FOD is important to the aviation industry.
Foreign object debris, of course, consists of any object, particle, or substance in an improper place. In aviation, FOD can create hazards to aircraft, equipment, cargo, or personnel. For example, bolts and screws that come loose from aircraft and fall on an airstrip are FOD. These bolts and screws could easily be sucked into aircraft engines, causing damage.
Other common types of FOD include:
- Broken pavement
- Dust or ash
- Parts from ground vehicles
- Maintenance tools
- Aircraft parts
- Metal shavings
Just about anything can be FOD, because just about anything can cause damage to an aircraft in the right circumstances. Reducing the presence of FOD at aviation facilities is imperative to improving airline safety.
Worldwide, FOD costs the aviation industry about $13 billion per year. While some of that sum is related to repairing equipment damaged by FOD, a large part of it comes from indirect costs, such as flight delays, need for additional aircraft, labor costs, excess fuel expenditure, etc.
Broken down, FOD costs airlines about $26 per flight in maintenance costs and $312 per flight related to indirect flights. These costs are passed down to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices.
FOD’s negative consequences don’t merely extend to financial inconvenience, however. Damage caused by FOD has led to crashes with deadly results. For example, in 2000, a strip of titanium that fell off the engine cowl of another plane stuck Air France Flight 4590’s tires at a Paris airport, causing the tire to shatter and rupture the plane’s fuel tank, triggering an explosion. The incident resulted in 113 deaths. It also resulted in civil suits and criminal prosecutions.
In 2013, the left engine of a Boeing 777-200 aircraft sucked up an empty cargo container as the plane was taxiing to its parking gate after landing. The damage didn’t result in any deaths, but it did require the replacement of the engine at considerable expense.
Accidents related to FOD causing injury are rare, and air travel remains one of the safest means of transportation. In 2016, the airline industry had 19 fatal airliner accidents, or just one accident causing fatalities per 3.2 million flights. Properly checking for and eliminating FOD can help airlines keep those numbers down and avoid tragic and expensive accidents with high human and financial costs.
Other Industries Affected by FOD
Foreign object debris isn’t just a problem for aviation. A variety of other industries are impacted by FOD:
- The racing industry must stay vigilant for FOD, as loose bolts, tire scraps, or other parts from vehicles may cause damage to other automobiles or an accident during a race. Quick removal systems are vital, as crashes can prove deadly to drivers, and excessive delays can impact spectator satisfaction with racing events.
- The construction industry must also be vigilant regarding FOD. Construction components used on job sites near roads may cause damage to motorists’ vehicles or even crashes. Crashes caused by construction site debris can provide personal injury lawyers with an opening to seek damages against builders.
- Governments must also be aware of FOD on roadways, especially during and immediately after road construction. Road construction can result in a lot of debris left on roadways. This debris can puncture and shred tires and cause other vehicle damage, resulting in accidents. FOD removal from road construction sites is vital to public safety.
FOD may also pose environmental hazards, so cleaning it up and disposing of it properly is important to ensure that soil and water resources remain unpolluted. As environmental damage can result in government penalties and lawsuits, companies and other organizations have a substantial economic incentive to clean up debris.
How the Airline Industry Combats FOD
FOD can impact airplanes in a number of places, including terminal gates, runways, cargo aprons, and run-up pads. Keeping these places clear of FOD is critical to aircraft safety, and there are a number of things the industry can do to ensure critical areas are free of FOD.
- Training – FOD reduction begins with proper training for airport and airline personnel. This training should define the various types of FOD and should also clearly demonstrate the consequences of doing nothing to combat it. A good training program will emphasize the danger FOD poses to aviation industry personnel, passengers, and equipment. It should also address the direct and indirect costs of FOD. Most importantly, the training should detail how to properly remove FOD.
Aviation-related businesses should do their best to foster a culture of safety and FOD awareness by posting visual reminders throughout their facilities, such as posters and signs, along with regular refresher courses in anti-FOD training.
- Inspection – Frequent inspections are critical to reducing the presence of FOD at aviation facilities. Facilities should follow all Federal Aviation Administration and International Civil Aviation Organization rules for regular inspections of facilities. Inspection is especially important when construction is ongoing, as construction projects can be a major source of FOD.
Constant inspection systems are a great tool in the fight against FOD. These systems use radar and sensors to detect FOD and have become common among busy aerodromes, such as Dubai and Heathrow. They are particularly helpful at night and in bad weather, where visibility may be poor.
- Maintenance – Using the right tools to remove FOD is the most important thing aviation-related businesses can do to ensure safety. The most effective tool to combat FOD is the airfield sweeper, a device that covers ground traveled by aircraft and which removes FOD.
The FOD Boss
The FOD Boss is an excellent product for removing foreign object debris from aviation facilities. The device consists of a synthetic mat with brushes and plastic scoops along the underside that pick up debris as the mat is pulled across runways and other areas. A truck tows the FOD Boss behind it, allowing for quick clean-up of sites.
The FOD Boss has several advantages, including:
- Speed – Because the FOD Boss is towed behind a truck, it can quickly clear large areas of runways needed by airplanes to take off and land. For aviation facilities running on tight schedules, quick removal of debris can greatly enhance efficiency.
- Durability – FOD Boss mats are built to last. The mats are made from high-quality materials that can withstand multiple uses in even the toughest weather conditions. Aviation companies face tight budgets, so finding long-term solutions to problems is a great help to the industry.
- Effectiveness – The FOD Boss will pick up nearly any type of debris from runways and other areas traveled by airplanes. Whether that includes rocks, bolts, animal bones, or other debris, the FOD Boss will remove it. The device has a pickup rate of 99 percent.
There are several other tools that aviation facilities will need to tackle the problem presented by FOD, including brooms, trash receptacles, and more. Barriers can also be helpful in preventing FOD accumulation. Wind barriers and netting can impair the movement of airborne debris, and fences can keep animals from entering the airfield, where they may be sucked into engines or hit by moving aircraft. The FOD Boss is one of the main lines of defense against debris-related damage to aircraft, however.
Aerosweep has spent nearly 30 years perfecting the FOD Boss and other foreign object debris removal systems. Aviation-related businesses that want the very best tools for removing bolts, gravel, metal, and other debris that can put their aircraft and their passengers at risk can trust Aerosweep to deliver a reliable and effective product.