To focus attention on the dangers posed to aircraft and their engines by foreign object debris (FOD), Luke Air Force Base in Arizona holds an annual walk along its flight line in which personnel clear anything they find. Debris removed from airport ramps, taxiways or runways can wreak havoc on turbine engines and FOD costs the airline industry $12 million annually according to the FAA. The crash of an Air France Concorde in 2000 near Le Bourget Airport (LFPB) in Paris, the result of the aircraft hitting a small piece of metal during its takeoff roll, underscored the dangers of FOD.
FAA AC 150/5220-24 reminds both airport and aircraft operators that because FOD can appear in almost any size, shape or color, the watch for “airport junk” is a round-the-clock job.
A 2008 white paper on FOD published by air traffic management agency Eurocontrol found that “60 percent of airport FOD was made of metal, followed by 18 percent made from rubber.” Dark colored items made up more than 50 percent of FOD, while the most common object dimensions showed pieces smaller than 1 inch square.
While new technology such as radar and electro-optical sensors exist to detect FOD, the primary detection method is the same one in use for decades: people walking the ramp and driving the runway to remove loose objects they find.