Foreign Object Damage


Importance of FOD prevention
What can cause FOD
Basic elements of FOD prevention


Foreign Object (FO) or Foreign Object Debris (FOD)
A substance, debris or article alien to a vehicle or system that has potential to cause damage. [1].
Foreign object damage (FOD)
Any damage attributed to a foreign object. FOD is an aviation term used to describe both the damage done to aircraft by foreign objects, and the foreign objects themselves (i.e. any object that has, or is likely to, cause damage.) [2].
Critical Area
An area in the airport, aircraft or engine/component where a foreign object can migrate and cause damage, malfunction or deterioration.
Potential Foreign Object
A substance or article alien to the assembly which has the potential to invade the product, but has not yet caused damage. Examples of potential FO are: buttons, pens, coins, jewelry, lost or unaccounted for tools, hardware or any materials foreign to the product within areas where product hardware is being worked or where conditions of possible unplanned entry exist.


FOD is estimated to cost the aerospace industry $12 billion per year. $4 billion is the direct cost for damaged parts; however, another $8 billion is consumed in indirect costs such as delays, plane changes, fuel costs, significant damage to aircraft and parts and death and injury to workers, pilots and passengers. (Source: The Economic Cost of FOD to Airlines, Insight SRI Ltd., UK 2008.) [3].

Air France Flight 4590

Almost everyone is familiar with the Concorde that crashed in July 2000. What most people don’t realize is that this was a FOD incident. During takeoff, an Air France Concorde (Flight 4590) ran over a piece of metal on the runway.

The piece of metal caused a tire to fail; pieces of the tire ruptured the fuel tank, ignited the fuel and ultimately resulted in a loss of aircraft control that ended with the Concorde crashing into a nearby hotel.

The Concorde crash may have been prevented! A full runway inspection was cancelled just hours before the crash. (Source: Report sheds new light on Concorde crash, CNN, 2001.) A piece of metal resulted in the death of 113 people; destroyed a 46 million dollar aircraft; and destroyed a hotel. The total cost will likely be in the hundreds of millions since multiple lawsuits have been filed.

If the CNN report is correct, this is a classic case of what can happen when established procedures are not followed.


(Image of Air France Flight 4590)

US Airways Flight 1549

On January 15, 2009, a US Airways Flight 1549 jet flew into a flock of Canada geese, and the plane suffered a double engine failure. Fortunately, the pilot was able to ditch the plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all on board. All 155 occupants safely evacuated the still virtually intact, though partially submerged and slowly sinking, airliner from which they were quickly rescued by nearby watercraft. [4].


(Image of US Airways Flight 1549)


Anything can cause FOD – it just has to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The intake suction from a jet engine is often powerful enough to suck up loose material lying on the runway, and the winds created by a helicopter or prop - driven aircraft's rotors or by a jet blast can send such objects airborne, creating hazards to nearby aircraft and personnel. [5]

Airport infrastructure.

The deterioration, maintenance, and construction of the airport infrastructure can contribute to FOD. For example, pieces of concrete can break loose from holes in pavement or from fatigue corner cracks, and building materials can fall from construction vehicles or be blown from gate areas onto airplane maneuvering areas. Broken pieces of pavement can collect at the edge of the gate area and be carried onto the airplane maneuvering area by the tires of vehicular ground support equipment (GSE). Service roads that cross taxiways should be monitored closely to prevent the vehicles using these roads from moving FOD onto the taxiways.

Normal aircraft operations.

Refuelling, catering, cabin cleaning, baggage and cargo handling can produce broken materials. Baggage pieces, including bag tags and wheels, can break off luggage and either fall onto the apron or collect in the door sill. Items collected in the door sill can damage the door or prevent it from fully sealing. They can also be knocked out of the sills and onto the apron at the next station. Other areas where FOD is likely to collect include the ground at both ends of the conveyor, and the area between the baggage cart and the conveyor belt.

Maintenance activities

Maintenance activities require a variety of small objects, such as rivets, safety wire, and bolts, that become FOD when they are inadvertently left behind. An effective tool control program will reduce the number of missing hand tools.

Remember…the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia in January of 2003 was caused by FOD. A piece of foam insulation broke off during liftoff and damaged the heat shield tiles on the leading edge of the left wing. During re-entry, the aircraft structure (no longer protected by the tiles) began to melt causing the wing to fail and the Columbia to break apart.

(Image of Space Shuttle Columbia)

And the list goes on……

Landing gear safety pins ingested by a running jet engine; a socket wrench jammed in a flight control bell crank mechanism; a stray piece of safety wire that shorts out a circuit breaker panel: All of these scenarios represent Foreign Object Damage (FOD).

A simple pen can jam flight controls, cause a system malfunction, or require rework to retrieve the pen costing time and money. Personal items also represent a significant safety hazard – jewellery and other items can snag while working on aircraft or machinery causing serious injury and damages.

One Bolt - - - - - $0.50

One turbine engine - - - - - $681,364

Preventing an accident - - - - - - Priceless ! ! !


(Image of IAE V2500 Engine)



Even if other elements of effective FOD Prevention are not in place, a good Promotion and Awareness Program can significantly help reduce FOD by engaging a workforce with information, feedback and involvement. For instance, the basic elements of a comprehensive campaign might include:

  • FOD - themed posters, signs and large banners and other visual aids displayed in critical work areas and places where employees are likely to gather;
  • FOD Walks, in which personnel walk down a flight line shoulder-to-shoulder, working together to pick up FOD.
  • "FOD Awareness Week”, a week-long schedule of events – such as training sessions and FOD control equipment displays – targeted to get the workforce involved and increase their knowledge of the FOD Program.


Training is a tremendous awareness tool that is not always given the priority and forethought it deserves. It is an opportunity to highlight areas needing improvement, reinforce some of the rules that are not always being adhered to, introduce new initiatives, and applaud accomplishments. For instance, elements of new employee training should include:

  • Identify the FOD SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and provide a copy of the FOD procedure to each new employee.
  • Emphasize the importance of “Clean-As-You-Go” and define the rules that apply to daily work routines.
  • Review tool and hardware rules, to include tool crib issued items.
  • Review the Missing Item Report, when to use it and how to submit it.
  • Identify FOD control areas. Show examples of typical FOD charts/metrics.

Inspection / Maintenance

Airline personnel, when feasible, should join the airport staff in daily airside inspections. This practice helps increase familiarity with local airfield conditions, and promotes effective communication between the airport and airlines.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) require a daily, daylight inspection of airplane maneuvering areas and removal of FOD. In addition to performing these inspections at the beginning of the day or shift, personnel on the airside should look for FOD during their normal shifts.

Ongoing construction requires more frequent inspections. It may even be necessary to assign dedicated personnel to continually inspect for FOD during major construction activities. Flight crews should report to air traffic control and station operations any FOD they observe on runways and taxiways. Airlines and airplane handling agents should designate individuals to inspect gate areas prior to airplane movement to and from the gate.

1. National Aerospace FOD Prevention, Inc. "National Aerospace Standard 412" Retrieved on 01 August 2009
2. WIKIPEDIA (2009). "Foreign Object Damage" Retrieved on 30 July 2009
3. Insight SRI Ltd. "The Economic Cost of FOD" Retrieved on 01 August 2009.
4. WIKIPEDIA (2009) "US Airways Flight 1549" Retrieved on 02 August 2009
5. Bachtel, Brad. "Foreign Object Debris and Damage Prevention" Retrieved on 02 August 2009

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