The Significant Cost of FOD

The Significant Cost of FODAccording to a study conducted by Insight SRI Ltd. in 2008, the aerospace industry spends $12 billion annually on foreign object debris (FOD). Of that, $4 billion is spent on damaged parts and $8 billion goes towards “indirect costs such as delays, plane changes, fuel costs, significant damage to aircraft and parts and death and injury to workers, pilots and passengers.”

FOD is defined as any substance, debris or article alien to a vehicle or system that has potential to cause damage. This can be anything from suitcase zippers and straps to pens and coins.

That high cost can also be deadly. In July 2000, the crash of Air France Flight 4590 that killed 113 people was caused by FOD. The plane ran over a piece of metal on the runway which caused a tire to fail. Pieces of that tire ruptured the fuel tank and ignited the fuel. The pilots lost control of the plane and crashed into a hotel. CNN reported that the runway inspection had been cancelled just hours before the crash. That little piece of FOD cost 113 people their lives, and destroyed a hotel and a $46 million plane.

“Considering the high cost of damage that can be done by FOD that might not be any bigger than a piece of safety wire, not to mention any potential injuries from FOD, airport administration should seriously consider implementing routine sweeping as a Best Management Practice (BMP) to reduce FOD at their airfields,” suggests Tymco.

Tymco says that “most airports conduct routine FOD checks where airport personnel will drive back and forth over the runways and taxiways looking for FOD. Many airports have personnel dedicated to operating sweepers on the airfield to sweep all debris while they perform their routine checks for larger FOD.”

However, Tymco contends that, “Every year, more and more people are using air transportation as their means to travel. Meanwhile, airport administrators are trying to increase air traffic without adding additional resources. This makes time extremely valuable for all activities performed by airport personnel. When airport maintenance staff perform routine sweeping over runways, ramps, aprons and taxiways, it is critical that those areas are swept to remove all FOD, but it is becoming increasingly important for those areas to be swept quickly.”

To meet these needs, commercial and military airports have turned to the Tymco Model HSP (High Speed Performance) which was originally designed for the U.S. Military to meet their requirements which included six different tests over 140 square feet on a flat-level paved area.

1. Sand Test – 0.5 lbs/sq ft with a Required Performance of 95 percent at 15 mph
2. Pea Gravel Test – 0.5 lbs/sq ft with a Required Performance of 95 percent at 15 mph
3. Stone Test – Ten Stones having a 2” nominal diameter with a Required Performance of 100 percent at 15 mph
4. Solid Steel Cylinder Test – Ten Solid Steel Cylinders 1” in diameter x 3” long with a Required Performance of 100 percent at 15 mph
5. Joint Cleaning Test – 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 6-1/2’ long joint filled with sand with a Required Performance of 40 percent at 15 mph
6. Miscellaneous Pick Up Test – Seven each of the following items placed on the track. Required Performance of 54 pcs at 15 mph.
Balls – 1/2″ diameter
Nails – 2-1/2” long
Flat Washers – 1/2 I.D.
Screw Cap – 1/4″ diameter x 2”
Hexagon Nut – 1/2″
Air Craft Safety Wire – 1/2″ long, crumpled
Sheet – 2” sq x 1/8” thick
Rivets – 1/4″ diameter x 1”

Dallas-based Mister Sweeper also invented the Sidekick Blower System. Originally designed as a lightweight aircraft supercharger, it’s a lightweight cast aluminum turbine which has been adapted and modified by the 36-year-old parking lot sweeping company.

The quiet blower system attaches to a sweeper and blows 10,000 cubic feet per minute (the amount of 16 backpack blowers). The unit can be quickly attached and detached. Multiple units can be attached for high speed and high volume use for runways and snow blowing.

Another popular airport sweeping tool is the FOD Boss. Used by Flagship, the company that sweeps for American Airlines at DFW Airport, the FOD Boss works by capturing debris as it passes over the tarmac. According to their website, “The force of friction and a series of specially designed brushes scoop up foreign objects and hold them in an easy to empty mesh capture zone. The FOD Boss is a revolutionary new system of removing FOD that sweeps faster and more efficiently than ever before. This remarkable speed sweeper controls FOD such as nuts & bolts, washers, rivets, stones, loose baggage hardware, sand and empty drink containers.”

Whichever equipment you choose, you can see how important it is that the FOD is removed from runways to keep people safe and planes flying on time.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

FOD Boss:
Sidekick Blower System:
Mister Sweeper: