Foreign object debris (FOD) presents a significant safety risk to commercial and private airport operations, causing damage to aircraft and potentially injuring personnel.

However, airports using the FOD*BOSS airfield sweeper, a system designed by AeroSweep to pick up stones, gravel, nuts, bolts, sand, rivets and other foreign objects on the runway, taxiway and apron areas, can rest assured knowing they have the most effective and safest airfield sweeping system.

The FOD*BOSS can be attached to any vehicle and is considered the most reliable and cost-effective FOD removal tool in the industry. Airport Technology spoke to Stuart Tozer, director of AeroSweep, to find out what the FOD*BOSS can deliver for commercial or private airport operations.

What is it about the FOD*BOSS that appeals to commercial and private airport operators specifically?

The FOD*BOSS has great appeal as a proven low-cost and highly effective FOD removal system.  Safety is always at the top of airport operators’ minds and when it comes to FOD removal, it is important to use a system proven to be the most effective available.  I have spoken to pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel about this issue, and they all agree that when it comes to FOD removal, it must be done using a system that collects everything on the surfaces swept.

A lot of FOD is invisible to the naked eye during a visual inspection, and therefore one needs to rely on the tools they have for ensuring they pick everything up.  Compared to alternative FOD pick-up options; the FOD*BOSS has an unrivalled pick-up rate, is far more affordable, faster, and maintenance free! It is often viewed as the best solution. Finally, if we look at flexibility, the FOD*BOSS can be operated around parked aircraft sitting on the apron/ramp and during baggage handling and restocking processes. It is also quite capable of sweeping larger areas such as the taxiways as well as the runway.

Are the challenges more acute for these operators than for those in the military for example? Why?

The issue is not more acute, rather a wider range of potential sources of FOD may exist.  Depending on the size of the airport or the military base, the areas requiring sweeping may be more extensive. In this respect, commercial and private operations have baggage handling and catering services that share the aircraft operating surfaces, which may be a potential source of FOD. This is supported by data. Studies from major commercial airports have shown that approximately 55% of FOD is generated in the apron/ramp area.

Further, commercial operators use passenger bridges when the aircraft parks. These bridges create areas that may be difficult to sweep using large sweeper trucks. The flexible sizes of the FOD*BOSS and their high manoeuvrability make them an attractive and unparalleled option for commercial airports.

How widely used is the tool among commercial and private airport operators?

The FOD*BOSS is used extensively throughout the world in commercial and private airports.  This includes large operations such as Hong Kong International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport. Other major airports include Atlanta, JFK, Heathrow, LAX, Chicago, Cape Kennedy-based NASA program, and every major air force in the world.

We have even heard of some airlines demanding an airport adopt the FOD*BOSS airport sweeping solution before they will land their aircraft. Aircraft operators are acutely aware of the costs and dangers associated with incomplete FOD control processes and systems, so it is gratifying to know we are providing a solution that is known as the safest FOD sweeper.

What’s been the impact of Covid-19, and the shutting down of airports globally, on sales of your products to airport operators? How’s your strategy towards this sector changed as a result?

While international flight lockdowns and travel restrictions have starved the skies of passengers, it has been reported that air cargo demand has been racing ahead of capacity.  This means that airports continue to be used at a relatively high rate meaning that maintenance measures must continue.  It might be that lower-cost options for certain maintenance tasks are being explored as everyone currently reviews their operating cost base.

This is where the FOD*BOSS excels.  The FOD*BOSS represents a highly cost-effective FOD control system, offering unparalleled performance compared to other FOD sweeping options.  If it becomes a question of how an airfield can get the safest and most effective FOD control system in place while offering an exceptional ROI, then look no further than the FOD*BOSS.  This is the message we are currently relaying.  Beyond that, our strategy remains the same.

How much can commercial or private airport operators expect to save from using your system?

There are several factors and inputs to calculating this type of figure.  However, if we compare it to mechanised airport sweepers based on a truck platform, you are comparing an acquisition cost of thousands of dollars to one of potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Then there are the maintenance and operating costs to consider.  The FOD*BOSS is virtually maintenance free, requires no training, can be towed behind any number of vehicle types, and does not need a special licence to operate.  It can be deployed in minutes, stored in a bag, and therefore does not require its own garage or significant hangar space.  It has an operating cost that can be as low as a cup of coffee a day!

What one piece of practical advice would you offer to airport operators, when it comes to the importance of clearing debris, that you would not necessarily give to their military counterparts?

I would suggest that smaller and more nimble options be considered for areas where jet aircraft operate that are multiple use, such as in apron/ramp/passenger gate areas.  This is where the FOD*BOSS offers unparalleled performance based on its sweeping area flexibility and high manoeuvrability.  It can even be operated by hand in certain circumstances.  In this respect it is possible that for a focused FOD control programme, the FOD*BOSS is the only product required.  However, we would normally recommend it as one of the tools that an airport may want to own.

Please provide a quote or two from some satisfied customers at airports.

With the purchase of multiple FOD*BOSS Rapid Response Airfield Sweepers, the Louisiana State Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division has equipped airports with “the best FOD prevention tool on the planet.” A spokesperson added: “Louisiana has made a commitment to become the top state in the nation in airfield FOD safety. Incorporating FOD*BOSS sweeper technology into their FOD prevention efforts makes good sense, as other airports are learning.”

In addition, a United Airlines Maintenance Training spokesperson shared: “I attended a Labor-Management Safety meeting, during which a performance review of the FOD*BOSS was presented. Many ORD upper management were in attendance, including those who approved the funds for the FOD*BOSS. In three weeks, the FOD*BOSS has picked up over 600 lbs of debris. In addition, some interesting material was found. Thousands of very small steel ‘pins’ were trapped by the unit. These were so small that unless you were looking for them, you wouldn’t notice them on the ramp. Turns out, they came from the brushes the city uses to remove snow from the ramp areas.”

Free Whitepaper

Foreign object debris (FOD) is a serious safety issue for airfields, and effective runway and ramp sweepers are required to ensure it is collected from the ground. Download this whitepaper to learn more about the issue and find out why the FOD*BOSS is considered the ultimate airfield sweeper for fast, safe and effective FOD removal.

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