As defined in AC 150/5210-24, Airport Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Management, FOD is any object, live or not, located in an inappropriate location in the airport environment that has the capacity to injure airport or air carrier personnel and damage aircraft.
The presence of FOD is a continuing concern at our nation’s airports. FOD creates safety hazards and can ultimately impact safe operations by damaging aircraft. Airports, Airlines, and the General Aviation community have taken the necessary steps to minimize FOD by engaging in successful FOD management programs, as per AC 150/5210-24.
In South Carolina, Keat Pruszenski and the SCAA Safety Committee have been working to make South Carolina state a safe place to land by tracking and recognizing participation in a statewide FOD prevention/detection program. Highlights of this program include:
- SC Aeronautics Commission procuring FOD sweepers for each of our 58 publicly owned public use airports.
- Currently, 41 airports are participating in active FOD sweeping.
- Airports are scheduling and holding FOD walks and inviting airport users and local communities to participate.
- Airports are identifying FOD Bosses—individuals who “own” FOD programs and commit to keeping an airport FOD-free.
General aviation and commercial service airports are leaning into the FOD program by using FOD sweepers, building FOD detection and elimination programs, and designating one or more individuals to head up their efforts.
The statewide FOD sweeper program began when Terry Connorton, Spartanburg Downtown Memorial Airport director, procured a device and began using it at his airport. He loaned the sweeper out to neigh- boring Greenville Downtown Airport. Word spread, leading the SC Aeronautics Commission to develop a statewide program that allotted one sweeper to every publicly owned public use airport in the state.
Saluda County Airport received a FOD sweeper in 2021. Saluda County Emergency Management Assistant Director and Airport Manager Jill Warren calls the SC Aeronautics Commission-provided FOD sweeper a game changer. “Prior to using the FOD sweeper, it would take a couple of hours to ride around the airports paved areas, visually identify, and pick up FOD. The sweeper has reduced the time spent cleaning up FOD and does a much better job as it picks up the smallest pieces. We are very grateful to the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission for providing us with the sweeper.”
View the Saluda County FOD Sweeper in action below. Notice the “pop” of dust when debris is collected.
At the Hilton Head Island Airport, the operations department, led by Chief of Operations Charles Neeson, manages the airport FOD program. Understanding the effects of FOD hazards to aircraft encompasses all personnel including, airport staff, general aviation tenants and terminal employees. Keeping a diligent schedule and promoting awareness is key to eliminating the threat of foreign object injection or damage to equipment.
As part of the airport training program, all airport personnel who have access to any part of the airfield including, taxiway, runways, hangar areas and aircraft aprons, receive initial and re-occurring training including the importance, effects, and elimination of FOD and the consequences if FOD is not removed. To increase attention to the FOD program, training coincides with airport driver training and security badge renewal. The re-occurring training stresses the safety of passengers, hazards to equipment and the costs associated with FOD damage.
During each airfield inspection, airfield maintenance or training, all hands are observant for FOD, hazards and any other dangers that could affect aircraft ingestion during takeoff, landing or taxiing.
FOD inspections are done monthly with the FOD sweeper on Alpha and Foxtrot taxiways as well as the runway and general aviation and commercial ramps. All FOD retrieved is inspected for “hard FOD” items including pins, nuts, screws or any other part or piece that could be ingested or cause damage. If the hard FOD can be identified to an aircraft, all efforts to inform the aircraft pilot or owner is made. All scheduled and unscheduled FOD inspections are annotated on the airport’s work order tracker for compliance with FAA part 139 inspection.
Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport’s FOD program is extremely successful as well. Airport Director Chris Eversmann said, “We keep FOD on the front burner.” Airport users, whether based at CUB or a visitor, are asked to pick up and properly dispose of FOD when they see it. These efforts are supplemented with monthly sweeping from the Richland County Department of Public Works. The airport proudly shares it continuous, diligent, and thorough anti-FOD campaign on its website.
As these airports and every public airport across our state fight FOD and make South Carolina a safe place to land, each airport user is asked to be ever vigilant. Remove FOD when you encounter it and encourage your fellow aviation enthusiasts to do the same. Everyone can be a part of this mission!