Foreign Object Damage prevention key to mission success

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael "Frankie" Kelly
  • 509th Bomb Wing Foreign Object Damage Monitor
The aircraft is being marshaled out of the hanger. The mission is a go. This aircraft is needed in another part of the world to support operations on the ground. The crew chief gives his salute and the pilot bumps the throttle to start his taxi towards the runway. BLAM-O! The number two engine shells out sending pieces of metal in all directions. The pilot quickly reacts by shutting down the engine and returning the aircraft to its parking spot. Investigation findings determine the cause of the engine damage was due to an aircraft screw being ingested. Yes, something as small as a screw can bring down an aircraft or prevent it from accomplishing its mission.

A screw on the ramp or runway is considered a Foreign Object. If damage to an aircraft results from this screw it is considered Foreign Object Damage. According to AFI 21-101, FOD is defined as any damage to an aircraft, engine, aircraft system, component, tire, munitions or support equipment caused by a foreign object(s), which may or may not degrade the required safety and/ or operational characteristics of the aforementioned items.

The total cost to the Air Force for FOD incidents within ACC for fiscal year 2009 is $13, 544,391. Of this total, $5,418,136 was preventable, that is, it was caused by oversight, lack of attention to detail or poor judgment. Maintainers and air crew are very familiar with the FOD program and have been briefed on prevention techniques since the beginning of their careers. Still, incidents do happen; therefore, the opportunity to refresh individuals on the program is a continuing necessity. Below are some key items to prevent Foreign Object Damage.

· "If you drop it pick it up"- This includes safety wire, hardware, packing material, trash, pens, pencils, tools or other items within a person's control. Don't wait around thinking it can be picked up can get it later; by then someone has already kicked it away or you will forget. FOD cans and bags are available for these items. This includes the back shops as well. Remember small items can also be trapped in boots and carried out on the ramp. The next thing that happens is an engine sucks up the debris and causes catastrophic damage. The mission has to be aborted.

· Tool Accountability/control- Air Force Instruction 21-101 outlines minimum requirements for tool accountability in and around the airfield. A couple of these requirements include tool inventory before and after each maintenance task and maintaining an accurate inventory list. Sometimes maintenance tasks will take longer than a normal shift or run through break times. Here is when the initiative is taken by the individual or the implementation of a shop policy comes into play. It is during these times when it can be identified if something is missing, so lost tool procedures can be started now rather than after people go home. Having an accurate inventory list ensures nothing gets missed or over looked and its whereabouts are identified.

· FOD walks and vehicle roll-over tire checks- FOD walks are a very important part of FOD prevention. It puts feet on the ground. The intent here is to have everyone line-up side-by-side and walk a predetermined path. Along the way individuals are to pick-up debris. Concentration on the task at hand is the key to success. Vehicle roll-over tire checks are required when driving through the entry control points and whenever a vehicle leaves the pavement and returns. It is imperative to thoroughly look over the tires and remove anything that may have become lodged in the tread. Doing this prevents the possibility of anything being inadvertently carried onto the ramp.

Remember, FOD is not all-inclusive to the aircraft engines. As mentioned before in the definition, it is attributed to all aspects of the aircraft. One key area where damage has occurred on a frequent basis is the aircraft tires. One small piece of wire can penetrate a tire ruining its integrity, and we all know the abuse aircraft tires take. A blow-out of landing gear tires can lead to severe damage or worse, the loss of life. The Concorde incident in 1979 is the direct result of blown tires. This caused damage to the number 2 engine, punctured three fuel tanks and tore a hole in the wing.

Maintenance and aircrew are not the only ones who need knowledge in FOD prevention. It is also necessary to inform those who have a smaller foot print on an active runway/ramp. Individuals who have a supporting role, such as medical emergencies and facility repair, also need to pick-up items when dropped, maintain tool accountability/control and perform roll-over tire FOD checks when on the ramp/runway. Doing this ensures an effective FOD program. There is a FOD video for non-maintenance personnel in the ancillary training link under the flight line driving computer based training. It highlights prevention techniques.

Many other FOD potentials exist out there. Adhering to our core values: Integrity first, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all we do, will enable Whiteman to keep an effective FOD program. If there are any questions concerning FOD prevention the Whiteman FOD/DOP monitor can be contacted.

Remember, a few minutes policing your area, maintaining accountability/control of your tools and concentrating on FOD walks can save hours, money, and ensure mission success.