On Saturday, Aug. 29, starting at 6:30 am, the Greenville Downtown Airport (KGMU) in South Carolina will close its two runways for 30 minutes so volunteers can walk the area looking for Foreign Object Debris (FOD).
“FOD is responsible for quite a bit of aircraft damage each year and is a threat to aircraft safety. It can damage tires, engines, wind screens and airframes. The Concorde crash in Paris in 2000 was due to FOD,'” said Keat Pruszenski, an aviation enthusiast who is organizing the event during South Carolina Aviation Week. “I was told by a friend who works at an airline that they have to replace four to five wind screens (aircraft windshields) every week due to FOD blown on them from jet blasts. There have been many studies that show the cost for FOD due to damage to aircraft every year is in the millions of dollars.”
What is FOD? It is anything that should not be on the airport surfaces where aircraft have movement. Common items are things that can fall off of people or out of shirt pockets like badges, hats, pens, pencils, cell phones, and pocket lights. Some items come off of aircraft or vehicles moving in the area like tire valve caps, aircraft lens lights, screws, nuts and bolts. Other items are naturally occurring like sticks, acorns, rocks and pavement particles that have come loose from the surface. Many other things have been found, like golf balls, socks, drill bits, water bottles, rubber bands, duct tape and wire.
The process involves a team of volunteer FOD inspectors walking in lines, spaced about 10 feet apart, to find and pick up any foreign objects that might cause damage to aircraft. Items are secured in individual bags during the walk, then consolidated, counted and a FOD index of pieces per 1,000 square meters of area inspected is determined. The index can be compared to the score of other airports and to a later survey to determine the success of the airport in controlling possible FOD on a regular basis. FOD is so important to most military airports that they conduct a FOD walk every day to prevent unserviceable aircraft.
“FOD is everyone’s responsibility on a daily basis at an airport. Airport employees, tenants and pilots dispose of FOD all day long. We also have a street sweeper that we use to collect FOD. If you see it, you pick it up. That is the rule,” said Joe Frasher, airport director at GMU. “A FOD walk determines how well we are doing and where improvement may be needed,” added Frasher.