The FAA is expected to issue on October 1 its Advisory Circular on automatic runway foreign object debris (FOD) detection and alerting systems, following a seven-week industry comment period. The draft AC was issued on August 11 to coincide with the annual conference of National Aerospace FOD Prevention in Layton City, Utah.
The draft proposal fell short of attendees’ expectations. Many anticipated that the AC would provide guidance to airports on integrating FOD activities into their safety management programs. This would include system applications, FOD retrieval, data collection and analysis, risk assessment and action protocols and communications with the user community. Existing FAA guidance was published in 1996, long before modern safety programs and automatic FOD equipment existed.
But the draft 16-page AC contained only the broad characteristics of the four systems evaluated–three fixed arrays along the runways and one vehicle-mounted mobile unit–each of which used different technology approaches to meet FAA detection and alerting requirements. The draft lacked the additional key guidance information to airports that had been in an earlier 46-page version, according to several conference attendees. Sources told AIN that the FAA gave no explanation for the removal of that data, although there was speculation that it might have fallen victim to an internal agency “turf war” in which information “owned” by different groups is jealously guarded.
Conference attendees hoped that the airport data would be reinstated in the final AC planned for the October 1 release, or that it would follow shortly. “These new automatic FOD detection systems show how technology has advanced,” one operator told AIN. “Now, we urgently need updated guidance to maximize their benefits within our individual safety programs.”