How should airports best tackle foreign object debris as the travel industry re-opens?

3 August 2020 (Last Updated August 3rd, 2020 11:22)

With lockdown having grounded the vast majority of flights for several months, for many airport operators the Covid-19 period will have been characterised by a huge amount lost in income, combined with heavy staff and resource shortages.

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How should airports best tackle foreign object debris as the travel industry re-opens?
It is vital that returning airport staff receive proper education around the issues associated with FOD, and training in how to deal with them.

With lockdown having grounded the vast majority of flights for several months, for many airport operators the Covid-19 period will have been characterised by a huge amount lost in income, combined with heavy staff and resource shortages.

These are the tough conditions that airports now find themselves re-opening into, and operators need to be fully aware of the challenges facing the air travel industry if they’re to have the best chance of surviving.

One issue that may not seem immediately obvious to operators, but which has the potential to cause serious problems as airports begin their re-opening processes, is foreign object debris (FOD) collecting on runways and other tarmacked areas used by planes.

Slashed operating budgets and curbed spending plans are likely to have led to the repurposing of experienced airport staff during lockdown, and some maintenance projects will have come to a standstill as a result. Maintenance procedures that might previously have been carried out every week have slipped to being done fortnightly or monthly, and the regular routine of maintenance staff completing and logging tasks may have been forgotten.

In these circumstances, it is vital that returning airport staff receive proper education around the issues associated with FOD, and training in how to deal with them. FOD can come in many different forms, with frequent sources including the detached parts of aircraft, birds, peoples’ belongings and other terrestrial objects. Of greatest concern to airport managers, though, should be FOD that comes from the deterioration of airport tarmac substrates.

Deterioration of substrates is usually caused by repeated aircraft movement, which leads to the tarmac breaking down into gravel. This usually occurs at certain stress points around an airport, like at turning nodes and in taxi ways for grounded planes. With Covid-19 upending maintenance processes at many airports, and with operators currently looking to stretch budgets as far as they will go, these stress points may have become particularly vulnerable to deterioration just when airports are starting to re-open.

Collecting large amounts of FOD from airport runways can be extremely costly, especially when done with traditional vacuum trucks. However, the FOD*BOSS tool from Aerosweep provides a much more cost-effective solution for airport operators with stretched budgets. The unique sweeper doesn’t accrue any running costs since neither maintenance nor training is required to operate it, making it a completely affordable solution for all airfields, regardless of their size.

Meanwhile, the FOD*BOSS’s pick-up rate is quicker and its distance covered per hour greater than other FOD solutions. Debris such as nuts, bolts, pavement fragments, washers, rivets, stones, sand, and gravel can be collected simply and inexpensively. The sweeper can also be extended from a single sweeper to its ‘Triplex’ configuration, making it easy to switch from sweeping small or tight areas out to larger, more expansive areas such as the runways of international airports.

The FOD*BOSS is also considered one of the safest, most reliable FOD solutions on the market. Indeed, the sweeper is relied on by military forces around the world, with many air force jets not touching down before a FOD*BOSS has had chance to clear the runway.

The sweeper was even used successfully by the United Space Alliance in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After using the FOD*BOSS to move its space shuttle from its horizontal hangar to the vertical assembly building prior to launch, J Seaman, a spokesperson for the organisation said: “Believe me there has never been a cleaner tow path!”

Since the launch of the first FOD*BOSS sweeper 25 years ago, Aerosweep has continued to evolve and adapt its successful model, introducing new features and using new technology along the way to improve the sweepers’ durability and performance. As airports around the world start to re-open their doors following the Covid-19 crisis, airport operators can feel assured that FOD*BOSS will give them the most up to date, efficient and cost-effective solution to their FOD clearing needs.

Free Whitepaper

How Runway and Ramp Sweepers Can Improve Safety at an Airport

There’s a lot that goes into the day-to-day operations of airport safety that most passengers won’t give a second thought to, but keeping the airfield and runways free from foreign object debris (FOD) is an essential part of keeping everyone safe.

Many FOD removers, such as vacuum sweepers, cannot handle large debris or work on wet surfaces. According to Aerosweep, the patented FOD*BOSS Airfield sweeper is the superior choice for FOD removal.

This whitepaper explains what types of runway sweepers are available, and why the FOD*BOSS is the most effective method.

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