Foreign object debris (FOD) management is critically important for efficient airport operations. Whether the airport is a small private field with only a few aircraft or a big-city airport with multiple runways and terminals, FOD is a constant concern. Virtually anything that does not belong in a location that might injure airport personnel or damage aircraft and equipment qualifies as FOD. That includes dead birds, sand blown onto a runway, engine parts, lost luggage, and anything else that is out of place. Constant action from wind, jet blast, prop blast, and other causes requires constant vigilance with an airport sweeper and other gear.
FOD Dangers are Imminent and Costly
FOD damage costs an annual tally of $4 billion at airports around the world, according to federal studies. The damage often is minor, such as nicked and cut tires. Other times, it can be very serious, like when a jet engine ingests a foreign object that causes it to fail. In extreme cases, airport FOD causes mass casualties. An Air France Concorde crashed while attempting to take off from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris in 2000. Its engine had ingested FOD from another plane’s blown tire. Regular maintenance checks and routine use of an airport sweeper is the best way to manage FOD issues.
Runway FOD Dangers Are Most Severe
Because fast-moving aircraft use it to take off and land, the runway is where FOD dangers are greatest. That is especially true when weather conditions are windy and blowing more debris from afar. The engine blast from jets also make FOD dangers especially acute on runways. The three primary types of FOD at airports are:
- Runway FOD is any object found where it does not belong and could damage fast-moving aircraft or injure airport personnel.
- Taxiway and Apron FOD is the same as Runway FOD but located out of the way of fast-moving aircraft.
- Maintenance FOD, which occurs when tools, parts, construction materials, and other equipment that might damage aircraft or cause injury to personal.
Ultimately, there is no secret to dealing with FOD at airports. It requires a combination of constant vigil and regular maintenance. An airport sweeper used nearly constantly will help control FOD issues, but it cannot eliminate them.
An Airport Sweeper Controls Chaos
An airport sweeper drags behind a tractor and looks like a large metallic rug. The airport sweeper is specially designed to collect all types of FOD objects and remove them from critically important areas. A runway needs nearly constant sweeping to keep it clear and safe. The taxiway and apron also benefit from continued vigilance by airport maintenance staff. That same staff is the best source for preventing maintenance FOD issues.