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Foreign Object Debris (FOD)

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Category: Ground Operations Ground Operations
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Foreign Object Debris or Foreign Object Damage (FOD)


Foreign Object Debris (FOD) at airports includes any object found in an inappropriate location that, as a result of being in that location, can damage equipment or injure personnel. FOD includes a wide range of material, including loose hardware, pavement fragments, catering supplies, building materials, rocks, sand, pieces of luggage, and even wildlife. FOD is found at terminal gates, cargo aprons, taxiways, runways, and run-up pads.


FOD causes damage through direct contact with airplanes, such as by cutting airplane tires or being ingested into engines, or as a result of being thrown by jet blast and damaging airplanes or injuring people.

The resulting damage is estimated to cost the aerospace industry $4 billion a year.

A dramatic example of FOD damage is the loss of the Air France Concorde, which struck FOD on the runway during take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2000 (see Further Reading).


Defences include the following:

  • Regular and frequent inspection of the airfield, including aircraft manoeuvring areas and adjacent open spaces;
  • Suspension of runway operations upon notification to ATC about FOD on or near the runway until FOD has been removed and the runway inspected, as necessary
  • Regular and frequent inspection of the airfield buildings and equipment and immediate repair or withdraw from service of items likely to create FOD; and,
  • Removal of FOD as soon as it is identified.
  • Inspection of the parking gate to ensure that it is free of FOD, including ground equipment, and of ice, snow or other material capable of reducing braking action, is normally the responsibility of the airline representatives.

Typical Scenarios

  • Debris falls onto the runway from an aircraft or vehicle. An aircraft taking off passes over the debris, causing damage to its landing gear.
  • A rubbish bag falls from a vehicle while an aircraft is being replenished and enters an aircraft engine.
  • Ground servicing equipment is not withdrawn behind the safeline on the apron and is struck by an aircraft entering the stand, causing damage to the aircraft and equipment.
  • A loose piece of fencing material blows onto the apron, striking passengers walking to the aircraft.

Contributory Factors

  • Poor maintenance of buildings, equipment and aircraft;
  • Inadequate staff training;
  • Pressure on staff not to delay movements for inspection;
  • Weather (e.g. FOD may be created by strong winds or may be blown onto the airfield);
  • Presence of uncontrolled (e.g. contractors') vehicles on the airfield.


A program to control airport FOD is most effective when it addresses four main areas:

  • Training.
  • Inspection by airline, airport, and airplane handling agency personnel.
  • Maintenance.
  • Coordination.

Further Reading

Accident Report: CONC, vicinity Paris Charles de Gaulle France, 2000 (AW GND FIRE LOC)