What is FOD?
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 4 ROBERT L. MORAN
Accident Investigations, Reporting and Tracking
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
How many times have you conducted a preflight, post-flight or general maintenance on an aircraft/vehicle and found something out of place? It may have been a pebble tracked in from your boots, hardware from a maintenance task that had been performed and left behind, or general debris. These items may result in damage to equipment and become a contributing factor to an incident or mishap.
I’m sure everyone has heard the term FOD at some point in their career and thinks it only applies to them during a safety class. Walking the flight line while looking for items to pick up is often seen as a waste of time, but is a valuable part of the FOD program. Let’s take a minute to understand what FOD is and how it can affect us.
Army Regulation 385-10 defines FOD (foreign object damage) as damage to an Army vehicle, equipment or property as a result of objects alien to the vehicle or equipment damaged. This excludes aircraft turbine engines defined as a foreign object damage incident. These alien objects are known as “debris” and are also commonly referred to as FOD (foreign object debris). Some examples of debris are cotter pin clippings, pieces of safety wire, hardware and even tools left behind after maintenance. Even though many measures are in place to prevent items from being left behind, we can’t rule out the human factor. Soldiers are the first line of defense and should always have the clean-as-you-go mentality when conducting maintenance. Ensuring you have accountability of your tools and hardware before and after working on any equipment is pivotal.
Over the past two fiscal years, 26 mishaps have been attributed to FOD, resulting in nearly $4.7 million in damage to manned and unmanned aircraft. These were all preventable mishaps if we were to hold ourselves accountable. Strict discipline and individual oversight will minimize our FOD findings. Department of the Army Pamphlet 385-90, paragraph 2-8, states, “An effective FOD prevention program can enhance combat readiness by saving material, manpower and money. Therefore, FOD prevention must be an essential part of each unit’s aviation accident-prevention program.” A unit standard operating procedure should clearly specify what is required as stated in DA PAM 385-90 and can be tailored to the needs of the unit.
While working for the Defense Contract Management Agency, I quickly learned FOD and tool control are a big concern for both DCMA and government contractors during the production of new aircraft for the military. Many control measures are in place to prevent the migration of hardware or manufacturing debris on the product. Constant vigilance and supervision are needed to mitigate debris from being left behind.
When FOD is found on an aircraft, both the contractor and government representatives go to great lengths to determine the root cause and corrective action, attempting to prevent any future findings. In my experience, this is not necessarily the case in Army aviation. Most often, if FOD is found on an aircraft, it’s removed and often not reported. This is not the preferred method when FOD is found.
As a whole, we need to work together to support the FOD program and report findings to help enforce it. Educating Soldiers on what right looks like and to have the integrity and discipline to recover items left behind or lost during maintenance is critical. It is always better to take extra time to look for a piece of cotter pin that was clipped and dropped to the bottom of the flight controls than to find out later something happened while the aircraft was flying.