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NEWS | May 6, 2022

FOD walks ensure clear runways following airshow

By Andrew C. Patterson 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Richard Kilpper, 12th Flying Training Wing foreign object debris, or FOD, program manager led approximately 200 personnel on a FOD walk April 25, 2022, to ensure aircraft and pilot safety following The Great Texas Airshow.

More than 550,000 people attended the airshow, bringing along items that may have been left behind. This made cleanup operations by the airfield management team crucial.

The aerospace industry defines foreign object debris as any object, particle, substance, debris, or agent that is not where it is supposed to be, and which could create a hazard to aircraft, equipment, cargo or personnel.  

Damages caused by FOD can be exponential, ranging from debris lodging itself into the throttle linkage of an aircraft to being ingested into an engine causing hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair. Other types of damage include shredded fan blades, blown tires at high speeds, damaged delicate components and frozen control mechanisms.

"We're out here conducting the FOD walk -- which is one of the most critical portions of the airshow -- and it is unseen by the public,” said Lt. Col. Georges "Huck" De Wilde, Great Texas Airshow air operations director. “This protects all of the assets that have come in from all different places in the Air Force and the rest of the DOD. Each little piece of FOD we clear from the airfield potentially prevents a catastrophic engine failure."

For the post-airshow FOD walk, Airmen and Air Force civilians who work on the flight line were evenly spread out across the width of the ramp on one end. They then walked to a predetermined stopping point, searching for any pieces of foreign debris as they walked down the flight line.

Research has revealed that, while firm numbers are complicated to calculate, FOD costs between $4 billion and $13 billion annually in damaged equipment, flight delays, reduced efficiency, litigation, and other costs. Debris also has the potential to injure employees, passengers, and factory workers, and can affect national security, reducing air defense and other mission capabilities.

Regular FOD walks are an essential part of providing combat-ready forces and are crucial to preventing damage to an aircraft, ensuring mission readiness and safe, effective mission execution, Kilpper said. "The FOD program is owned by the vice wing commander and charges me with executing it and with recovering and preventing foreign object debris that could lead to damage."

This means ensuring any debris, including items remaining after the recent airshow, is removed in a timely manner. 

See our coverage of The Great Texas Airshow at https://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/Article/3010427/great-texas-airshow-thrills-more-than-half-million-attendees/.