What is Foreign Object Debris (FOD) in Aviation? Part 1

All You Want to Know About Foreign Object Debris

If you are standing in front of an aircraft with running engines, you are a FOD! Yes, humans can be Foreign Object Debris too. Let us begins the talk on FOD. 


  • What Are FOD in Aviation?
  • Foreign Object Debris or Damage?
  • Well-Known Foreign Object Damages
  • Financial Impact of FOD on the Aviation Industry
  • FOD Control: Removal and Detection  
  • What should you do if you find FOD?

What Are FOD in Aviation? 

If you are more into the aviation or aerospace industry, you might have heard about Foreign Object Debris (FOD). A FOD is any particle, substance, animal, or human that lies in a place where it is not supposed to be.

In aviation, we can find a plethora of FOD such as:

  • Detached particles from airplanes
  • Luggage tags and luggage parts
  • Damaged Pavement Blocks
  • Polythene bags and other types of bags
  • Spilled liquids: engine oil, fuel, and chemicals 
  • Ice, hail, and sand
  • Coins
  • Animals: birds, stray animals, and wildlife
  • Humans

These FODs can cause damages to operating aircraft or working personnel.

Foreign Object Debris or Foreign Object Damage?

In some resources, damage caused by the foreign object debris is termed as Foreign Object Damage, where the same acronym is used as FOD. It is quite straightforward to use the acronym FOD for both the terms, either its foreign object debris or the damage. 

Well-Known Foreign Object Damages

 Here are some accidents triggered due to a FOD. 

  • Air France Flight 4590: A Titanium strip fitted to the engine cowl (which is the FOD in this case) from a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 operated by Continental airline had fallen into the runway during the takeoff run. Concorde ran over the strip during the takeoff run and punctured a tire, releasing a chunk of rubber rocketed towards the aircraft’s fuel tanks. The impact did not rupture the impacted-tank but created a shock wave strong enough to breach another tank in its weakest point. It took just a second to make the flying aircraft a flying fireball. All onboard died from the accident.
  • US Airways Flight 1549: The Miracle of Hudson River. During the initial climb of the US Airways A320, a flock of Canada Geese was struck into the engines. Engine restart efforts were not successful, and due to the extremely low altitude, pilots had to ditch the aircraft on to the Hudson River. There were no fatalities.

Financial Impact of FOD on the Aviation Industry 

Foreign object damages causing to the aircraft, equipment, and personnel are a huge burden for the airlines. It affects turnaround times, aircraft ground times, and employee airside safety. According to a research conducted by Cleary & Dolbeer, an airline loses 173 hours for the downtime repairs and $147,000 of monetary loss per accident. Loss of flying hours costs an airline millions of dollars. Cleary & Dolbeer (2005) further states that the United States civil aviation industry losses 118,663 hours and $100.58 million of monetary loss per year, which is for 20% of the reported FOD damages. If the calculations were done for 100% of accidents, the cost would be 593,317 hours and $502.92 million, which is detrimental to the whole industry.

From the next part of the article, let us talk about the measures taken to control FOD in airfields to make your knowledge on FOD perfect. 

Keywords: Foreign Object Debris, Foreign Object Damage, Foreign Object Debris in Aviation, FOD, FOD in Aviation

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