The FOD Squad
Fighting FOD at Chicago's O'Hare Airport is an everyday battle, but a dedicated team of airlines, ground handlers, consultants, associations, and the City of Chicago are up to the challenge, writes Michelle Garetson
By Michelle Garetson
Question: What do bolts, burger wrappers, and birds have in common? Answer: They are all considered as FOD (Foreign Object Debris) in an airport setting and can cause Foreign Object Damage, also known as FOD, to aircraft and equipment. Everyday items — tools, flashlights, paperwork, gloves, gravel, metal bits — can incur extraordinary expense to repair damage caused to property as well as injuries to personnel. Foreign Object Debris can be alive too. Birds striking the airplane while both are in flight, or birds ingested into an operating engine, or even wildlife such as deer on the runway, can significantly damage the aircraft as well as cause human casualties. But, just as easily as FOD can bring operations to a screeching halt, it can, in most cases, be prevented from happening at all.
View From The Ground
Ted Sniegowski is the Operations Manager for GlobeGround North America at Chicago's O'Hare Airport (ORD) and came over from Midwest Express Airlines to this side of the aviation fence in 2001. Sniegowski explains that GlobeGround at O'Hare, with its 450 employees, provides ramp, fuel, equipment maintenance, and warehouse services for clients that include: JAL Freighter, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Singapore Freighter, as well as O'Hare newcomer, Martinair, which just recently started flying freighter operations into Chicago. On the passenger side, the company serves KLM, Korean, Turkish Air, and Air India.
GlobeGround also handles all of the passenger busing operations for the airport's remote parking areas. The company does not provide aircraft maintenance, but Sniegowski, a former A&P technician, would like to add that service to GlobeGround-ORD's offerings.
FOD Training For Ground Handlers
"FOD training is part of the safety training," explains Sniegowski. "GlobeGround feels that FOD prevention really begins with training our employees. We get a lot of first-time airline or airport employees that have never heard the term FOD and may not understand the concept and the consequences. We spend a great deal of time on awareness programs — right down to going out to the flights and doing FOD walks with the group and the trainers and myself."
GlobeGround's new ramp agents receive 40 hours of initial safety training, and the FOD portion of the safety training focuses on FOD orientation and awareness. "As we get out to the gate," he says, "we do a lot of practical training with FOD walks. We show them how to do gate setup, which includes FOD prevention, and how to set up their equipment with beginning of the day checks, as they walk around their tug — pulling all of the garbage out of it that the previous operator may have left."
It's All InThe Mix
"This airport has more mix of vehicle traffic and aircraft than I've ever seen. The on-field facilities for freight is so limited that we have a constant flow of semi-trucks through the ramp areas and it's one of the things that we've really looked at in Chicago that is impacting our operation," claims Sniegowski. He adds that they have been pushing an initiative for FOD for about a year now and is pleased to say that a lot of it is working.
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