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Phone FOD

Phone FOD

Phone FOD

 

CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 3 SIPHATH NOA
199th Regiment
Louisiana Army National Guard
Camp Beauregard, Pineville, Louisiana

 

In 2010, I was attached to a general support aviation battalion company. Just a year out of flight school, I’d become a pretty confident Black Hawk pilot. My company was about a year away from deploying to Afghanistan and recently acquired some new Soldiers. As is standard practice in the Army, the unit issued a roster with everyone’s contact information, which I painstakingly entered into my Nokia flip phone. At this time, larger smartphones weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. Mine was one of the smallest phones on the market and easily lost in an Army flight suit’s large pockets. I never imagined that little Nokia would help shake my confidence.

On this particular day, I was conducting preflight checks on a UH-60A in preparation for a joint training exercise with the Air Force. I hadn’t noticed anything unusual until I got to the tail rotor, when I realized that my lower cargo pocket was unzipped. I didn’t think anything of it. I just zipped it back up and continued about my business. I had other stuff to take care of before the exercise, so I was in a bit of a hurry.

We completed our mission late that evening. As we gathered our equipment out of the aircraft, I reached into my lower cargo pocket to grab my phone, but it was missing. I then looked through my other pockets and all of my bags, but still nothing. Out of places to search, I did the next logical thing: I got one of the new Soldiers in the unit, Jenny, to call my phone.

We were standing on the co-pilot side of the aircraft when I heard a faint ringing sound coming from the rear of the Black Hawk. As luck would have it, I’d put my phone on a setting that automatically sent callers to voicemail if I didn’t pick up after five rings, so Jenny had to call it several times. As we walked the perimeter of the aircraft, it became apparent the ringing was coming from the engine cowling. My heart sank. “How could you be so careless,” I thought to myself. I knew I would have to brief the commander on what I did.

I continued closing out our flight, all the while dreading what I was going to tell the commander. How would I even tell her? What would I say? Should I act remorseful or play it cool like it was no big deal?

Fortunately, my commander was a very compassionate leader. She was 10 years my elder but wise beyond her years. I’d never seen her lose her cool or yell. That wasn’t her style. I realized the dread I was feeling was not out of fear of being yelled at or reprimanded; I didn’t want to let her down. While I don’t recall exactly what my punishment was, I know it involved giving a safety briefing to the entire company. What I remember more vividly was my commander’s compassion toward me.

I drove home in silence that evening, lost in deep thought. When I got home, I didn’t address the incident with anyone in my household. I just went upstairs and showered. When I was done, I got dressed and went back downstairs to grab something to eat. I found my wife in the kitchen looking through my phone. She looked up and asked, “What’s going on with you today? You haven’t answered any of my calls. And why do you have 20 missed calls from someone named Jenny?” This broke me out of my spell. I explained what had happened at work and we had a good laugh about all of those missed calls from Jenny.

As aviators, we know the importance of conducting a thorough preflight of our aircraft. It helps us ensure nothing is out of place, such as hardware or tools from a previous maintenance task. These items, known as foreign object debris (FOD), may result in damage to equipment and become a contributing factor to a mishap. On this day, I didn’t find any FOD on my preflight, but I unknowingly left some behind. What I hope you learn from my story is the importance of conducting a preflight inspection of your flight suit before you preflight your aircraft. Ensure all of your pockets are zipped or secured. Anything you carry on your person, from cellphones to pens to loose change, can become FOD. No one wants their carelessness to be the cause of a catastrophic accident.

 

 

  • 1 October 2020
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 587
  • Comments: 0
Categories: On-DutyAviation
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