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Wing programs keep FOD in check

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Desiree Twombly
  • 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every morning Arizona Air Guardsmen from the 162nd Maintenance Propulsion Element here meet outside of their work section for a morning walk. It's not a social gathering but a walk much more serious in nature.

As they walk side by side, they eye the tarmac for small objects and debris that can cause damage to any one of the 70 F-16 Fighting Falcons at Tucson International Airport. Debris the size of a coin can cause thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars in damages.

Foreign object damage, or FOD, can occur when rocks, nails, screws, fasteners tools or any small fragments are ingested into an aircraft's engine when started. The F-16 is particularly susceptible to FOD because of its powerful intake and proximity to the ground. The intake operates like a giant vacuum and can suck up almost anything causing significant damage to blades and internal engine parts.

"For F-16s, the most typical damage we would see are nicks in the engine fan blades as a result of debris," said Master Sgt. Dave Davis, wing FOD program monitor.

Another concern regarding FOD is loose objects that have the potential to cause an in-flight emergency such as preventing an ejection seat from firing.

"We have to be vigilant so that tools and other miscellaneous items such as pencils don't get dropped into a cockpit. It's important to retrieve or account for these things to prevent FOD situations," said Sergeant Davis.

An aircraft grounded because of FOD to an engine fan blade can have an average downtime of one week. Airplanes that can't fly due to FOD can seriously affect the international pilot training mission at the 162nd. With about 60 sorties generated per day, every aircraft is needed.

"It takes about four hours to pull a motor. It takes another two or three days to replace a blade. This includes taking it over to the hush house, setting it up to do a run and ensure it's installed properly. Once that is done, crew chiefs install the motor and do additional checks which include another engine run," said Davis.

The 162nd has programs in place to keep aircraft free from FOD and reduce incidents. Maintenance shops also incorporate daily FOD activities to reinforce prevention.

Tech. Sgt. Terrence Ross, the propulsion element FOD monitor, coordinates and monitors FOD prevention activities for his shop.

"All Airmen are the first line of defense in prevention. Picking up debris or foreign objects can save man-hours and dollars in the long run," said Sergeant Ross.

In an effort to keep FOD prevention in the spotlight, wing FOD monitors conduct monthly working groups and quarterly meetings that address trends and recognize efforts of wing members. Quarterly reports detail the number of dispatches sent to the engine shop to repair blades as well as the number of replacements.

"We also put out bulletins and fighter wing instructions that give detailed instructions on how to handle FOD issues," said Sergeant Davis.

The wing also conducts an award program to reward individuals and their FOD efforts.
"With the Golden Bolt program I go out once a month and hide a laminated card in a maintenance section. The goal is to get unit members to be on alert for foreign objects. If someone finds it, they get four hours off," said Sergeant Davis.

In addition to these awards the wing also has a FOD Fighter Award. It's a certificate that recognizes sections that go above and beyond what's required by the FOD program. The importance placed on prevention is a key factor in all of the awards.

"On the FOD walks, every little piece of debris is important to pick up and it's important be thorough. There's so much that can be saved by doing this," said Sergeant Ross.