FOD free or go home

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A mandatory foreign object debris stop sits on the flight line at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 10, 2019. The 355th Wing's FOD manager keeps Davis-Monthan's flight line clean to protect flying assets both in the cockpit and on the pavement. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Blake Gonzales)

For most, general safety procedures are common place and incorporated amidst the daily work routine. However, there’s one position that makes safety not only the routine, but the priority.

Among the regular operations that keep the flight line busy, there’s an extra pair of eyes scanning the pavement for anything out of the ordinary. This job is simple, but necessary, as the lasting repercussions are too important to be ignored.

Master Sgt. Curtis Skaggs is the 355th Wing’s foreign object damage manager. He’s responsible for reporting and removing any loose objects on Davis-Monthan’s flight line that could potentially damage passing aircraft or other equipment. He also inspects the pavement for damage, tracks dropped objects and locates any other hazards that could affect flying operations.

Master Sgt. Curtis Skaggs, 355th Wing foreign object damage manager, picks up a small rock during a spot foreign object check at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 3, 2019. Skaggs inspects the flight line for damage, tracks dropped objects, and locates any other hazards that could affect flying operations. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Blake Gonzales)

“One FOD incident here could potentially have adverse effects downrange,” said Skaggs. “If there happens to be a FOD incident, myself, along with Wing Safety, will conduct an investigation if the incident warrants it.”

FOD is a critical threat within the maintenance community, but particularly hazardous when dealing with aircraft engines.

“The FOD manager acts as a detective at times and may perform Failure Analysis Service Technology tests to determine what caused a FOD incident,” said Tech. Sgt. Marc Bates, 355th Component Maintenance Squadron TF-34 section chief. “The FOD manager is an essential component to ensure proper steps are taken to produce the highest quality aircraft engines while eliminating this deadly hazard.”   

The Golden Bolt Award sits on the desk of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Curtis Skaggs, 355th Wing foreign object damage manager at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 10, 2019. Skaggs holds the award at his desk and presents it to a 355th Wing maintainer for outstanding performance in FOD prevention. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Blake Gonzales)

Skaggs has a large area of responsibility, an area that almost all the squadrons on base have a hand in.

“Not only do I work with the nine different flying units we have on the flight line, but also with the back shops that support them,” said Skaggs. “I coordinate with everybody who uses this airfield.”

Skaggs isn’t alone in his commitment to keep the flight line clean. Additionally, he works with FOD monitors who maintain FOD prevention at the squadron level, hosts foreign object prevention training and organizes annual FOD walks.

“FOD walks are a necessary part of everyday life for a maintainer,” said Skaggs. “I ensure that everyone knows the importance of FOD prevention and that we all do our part in mitigating preventable mishaps.”

Master Sgt. Curtis Skaggs, 355th Wing foreign object damage manager, performs a spot foreign object check under an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 3, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Blake Gonzales)

FOD prevention is vital at Davis-Monthan, not only for all the aircraft stationed here, but all the transient aircraft that pass through from other bases. Skaggs keeps Davis-Monthan’s flight line clean to protect the Air Force’s assets both in the cockpit and on the pavement. It’s his attention to detail, to even the smallest hazards, that prevent unnecessary damage to aircraft and injury.

“FOD prevention is a state of mind,” said Skaggs. “It’s not allowing the proper order of things to get out of order.  We all must have a ‘pick it up’ attitude and work together toward a FOD-free environment.”
 

Master Sgt. Curtis Skaggs, 355th Wing foreign object damage manager, logs an inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Dec. 10, 2019. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Blake Gonzales)