Foreign Objects Debris | If You See it (FOD) Remove it

Airport FOD

Last Update : 7-5-2022

Airport Foreign Objects Debris - FOD is an inanimate object within the movement area which has no operational or aeronautical function and which has the potential to be a hazard to aircraft operations. [ IATA AHM Ed 42]

Each airport operator (see note1) must establish and conduct an effective Foreign Objects Debris – FOD Prevention Program which outlines the responsibilities of FOD Prevention and explains FOD Prevention strategies that maintain the control of aviation FOD by using several methods. 

Note 1 :

The FOD prevention program applies to all aircraft operators, airlines, ground handling companies, refuellers, airport companies, and all airport stakeholders.


My Safety Audits - Aden Airport station

In one of my safety audits for Yemen Airways (Aden Airport station on March 2021), I collected many Foreign Objects Debris – FOD from the ramp area (See the above photo). There was a lack of FOD prevention culture among the airport staff and the airline staff too.

If the airport’s senior management and airlines’ senior management (and other parties’ senior managements) do not commit to their responsibility regarding FOD prevention and implementation of the FOD Prevention Program. All ramp personnel will ignore it such as my audit cause. 

We should understand that damage to aircraft, equipment (such as GSE), property, and injury to ramp personnel caused by foreign object debris is not the only a threat to aviation safety but it may cost airlines a direct loss resulting from aircraft/equipment out of service and disruption of airline flights schedules. 


The following is a clear safety standard by ICAO that explain to us the importance of this subject


ICAO Annex 14: VOL I – Aerodrome Design and Operations

Annex 14 Vol I, contains Standards and Recommended Practices (specifications) that prescribe the physical characteristics and obstacle limitation surfaces to be provided for at aerodromes, and certain facilities and technical services normally provided at an aerodrome.

Chapter 10 [Pavements 10.2.1] states, “The surfaces of all movement areas including pavements (runways, taxiways, and aprons) and adjacent areas shall be inspected and their conditions monitored regularly as part of an aerodrome preventive and corrective maintenance program to avoid and eliminate any loose objects/debris that might cause damage to aircraft or impair the operation of aircraft systems.”


Now, how these objects look like?


FOD definition

FOD are all loose objects which are a danger to the safety and integrity of an aircraft and which, therefore, must not be left in any area where they would constitute a hazard.

Also, FOD foreign object debris can be any object, live or not, located in an inappropriate location in the airport environment that can injure personnel and damage aircraft.

I am sure that you understood the importance of the FOD Prevention program. FOD has the potential to cause damage to aircraft and in turn, can have a catastrophic effect on aircraft safety.

Let me give you an example, the Concorde crash.


The cause of the Concorde crash was FOD Runway 

On July 25, 2000, the Concorde crashed a few minutes after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport.  After investigations, it's revealed that the cause of the accident was a metal wire. This metal wire is foreign object debris- FOD, it was located on the runway.

FOD runway caused the catastrophic accident which resulted in the deaths of 113 people, including all the passengers and crew.


Foreign Object Damage 

foreign object debris- FOD causes foreign object damage. This damage is caused through direct contact with foreign object debris at airports [both airside and landside].

Foreign Object Debris damage does not include damage from neutral causes such as lighting.

For example, damage to

1.       Aircraft [Aircraft Engines, Aircraft tires, or aircraft components]

2.       Ground Support Equipment

Furthermore, as said before aviation FOD may cause injury to airport personnel through the jet blast.


Is it clear?

Well, what is considered FOD?


Foreign Object Debris FOD Examples

Foreign Object Debris - FOD can include a wide range of materials that may be found anywhere in the airport environment, such as:

1.       Plastic and paper, bags/sheets, and rags.

2.       Metal: nuts and bolts, empty oil and hydraulic fluid cans, tools, and equipment.

3.       Natural objects: rocks, pebbles, and wood

4.       Other debris:  luggage handles and luggage wheels, etc.

5.       And even wildlife.

You can find these examples at airport environment areas such as terminal gates, cargo aprons, taxiways, runways, run-up pads, etc.


Now, I can say that you understood the term foreign object debris – FOD as well as its examples.

 But from where does it comes?


Foreign Object Debris- FOD Sources

There are many aviation FOD Sources such as:

1- Airport personnel

e.g., items in your pockets can be just as dangerous, such as keys and loose personal items.

2- Airport Infrastructure

 e.g., any construction and maintenance waste due to construction activities in operational areas

3- Weather Conditions

e.g., objects, small stones, sands, mud, etc.

4- The Environment

e.g., any plants that may appear due to the airport environment or any live animals and birds, etc.       

5- The Ground Services Equipment operating on the Airside

e.g., ground services equipment (GSE) Parts such as wheels, Metal parts, Rubber parts, etc.

6- Airside Activities

e.g., items such as paper, glass, and plastic debris [mainly from catering] and luggage & baggage parts, etc.

In addition, debris due to air cargo activities such as pallets, containers, wooden spreaders, pallets plastic covers, etc.

7- Aircraft Maintenance Activities

e.g., hydraulic fluid cans, tools, and equipment


 FOD prevention responsibilities

There are several responsibilities regarding FOD prevention:

1- Management Responsibilities

FOD prevention is the responsibility of the following management “all aircraft operators, airlines, ground handling companies, refuellers, airport companies, and all airport stakeholders”. These managements must have the overall responsibility for establishing and implementing an effective FOD prevention program in their work areas. All management must lead by example and encourage all employees to participate in the program through specific activities such as FOD inspections, FOD promotion, etc. 


2- Supervisors' Responsibilities

They must be aware of their area of responsibility regarding FOD prevention. Also, be aware of the potential for aviation FOD in their work area. The most important thing is that they assure subordinate personnel are aware and are participating in the FOD prevention program efforts.

Furthermore, they must do aviation FOD inspections regularly (within their area of responsibility), or help by removing any FOD out of their working area.

3- All employees involved in aircraft operations

All employees involved in aircraft operations and associated businesses, they must receive training to recognize and be responsible for the elimination of conditions that could result in FOD.

They must take ownership of identifying FOD hazards and advise their manager/supervisor on any condition that may result in aviation FOD.



FOD Foreign object debris at airports includes any object inappropriate location that may damage aircraft/equipment or injure airport staff. It includes a wide range of materials: loose hardware, pavement fragments, catering supplies, building materials, stones, sand, suitcases, and even wildlife.

The Foreign object debris - FOD can be found at airport terminal gates, loading platforms, taxiways, runways, and boarding platforms.

All airport staff involved in aircraft operations and associated businesses must be trained. They have equal responsibility to ensure that their particular work area does not rise Foreign Object Debris -FOD.

All foreign objects debris -FOD must be removed and properly disposed of as soon as they discover it, as well as they must report it.


Remember to visit aviation professional weekly.


Further reading:

1-IATA Airport Handling Manual

Maged Saeed AL-Hadabi

I’m Instructor / Maged Saeed Al-Hadabi. ​ Air Cargo / IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations / Safety Management System Senior Instructor, Auditor [ Yemen Airways] . Approved IATA DGR/ SMS Instructor by Yemen Civil Aviation Authority.

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