Although small items that tend to get kicked around on the ground every day may seem harmless, they can be deadly to an F-16.
Rags, pieces of paper or line, articles of clothing, nuts, bolts, or tools found in the wrong place, are known as foreign object debris. When these things end up on the flightline, they can get sucked into the jet air intake. In a Fighting Falcon, that intake is right under the jet and FOD can cause serious damage to the more than $15 million aircraft.
The damage can also cause injury to the pilot or people on the ground. F-16s aren’t the only vulnerable aircraft either. FOD can target any plane that lands on Luke.
How can FOD be stopped? If someone was cleaning a home and saw metal objects that could destroy a vacuum if sucked into it, that person would pick it up, right? Removing FOD is the same concept.
A FOD walk is an organized search of maintenance areas, runways and taxiways, to locate and remove debris not native to aircraft systems and has the potential to cause damage to those systems. Air Force Instruction 21-101 directs maintenance personnel to conduct FOD walks. The walks are done daily before each shift for back shops and before flying for aircraft maintenance units.
The Pratt & Whitney F-16’s F100-220 and 229 engines are susceptible to collecting objects because the intake is lower to the ground. With the Arizona Monsoon season comes daily wind or dust storms that can blow FOD onto Luke requiring daily FOD walks to remove what may have blown in overnight.
The annual FOD walk brings the whole base together to ensure the airfield is safe for flight. This one event reminds all personnel, including those who don’t work on the airfield, that it’s everyone’s job to eliminate the threat against Luke’s resources, most important of which are the men and women who work here.
The annual walk reinforces the idea that FOD prevention is not just a maintenance issue; it’s a Thunderbolt issue. It is important for everyone to be alert no matter what their Air Force specialty code. Help set the FOD culture standard by picking it up when you drop it or see it.
The wing FOD prevention office is made up of the FOD manager, Col. Robert Webb, 56th Fighter Wing vice commander, FOD prevention NCO and two alternates from 56th Maintenance Group Quality Assurance.
The FOD office investigates, analyzes and reports FOD damage. The office works with all agencies on base to prevent the damage. The FOD office is also in charge of the dropped object program, which evaluates any item dropped from the aircraft from engine start-up to shut-down. The office investigates, analyzes and identifies trends and reports to the major command. Lastly, they track and log lost tools and items lost in the cockpit or canopy.
True FOD prevention requires everyone’s cooperation and is done every day by checking vehicle tires for debris when we drive on the flightline. It’s also done by checking a work area after completing a task and ensuring tools and other possible debris are picked up and disposed of or returned to a storage area.
The next annual wing FOD walk is 6:45 a.m. Thursday.