What is FOD?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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The term FOD can stand for either Foreign Object Debris, or Foreign Object Damage, depending on the context. In either cases, it references an object in a location which it does not belong, such as a maintenance tool left in the landing gear of an aircraft, or a loose object which flies around inside the cabin of a plane during flight. Many people use the term “FOD” to refer specifically to aircraft, although it can also be used in the context of various other machines and vehicles.

Foreign objects can cause a great deal of damage to aircraft, even when they are small. For example, a tool left in the undercarriage of an aircraft could prevent the landing gear from descending, which would be catastrophic when the plane came down to Earth. FOD can also cause a failure of cabin pressure, or the failure of a jet engine. Such objects could also potentially jam controls and various mechanical features on an aircraft, impeding its normal operations.


Because FOD can be very costly and potentially deadly, many airlines and manufacturers work to prevent or reduce FOD on their aircraft. For example, jet engines have intakes which are specially designed to deflect foreign objects, preventing them from being sucked into the engine, and maintenance crews follow specific protocols when they service planes, which include using a checklist to collect all tools at the end of a servicing, ensuring that no tools are left in or on the aircraft. Many airports also have rumble strips on their runways, which are designed to shake foreign objects loose before takeoff.

Inside a plane, the cabin crew reduces FOD by stowing all items very carefully. As people who have flown on aircraft know, passengers are typically instructed to stow all belongings during takeoff and landing to prevent FOD, and to control objects in their vicinity during flight; if an object inside a plane got enough momentum, it could damage the structure of the cabin, potentially causing a loss of pressure. Loose objects can also injure crew and passengers, in addition to causing FOD.

When a foreign object causes damage to the outside of something, it is known as external FOD. Examples of external FOD include bird strikes on aircraft and tool damage. Internal damage is known, imaginatively, as “internal FOD.” Internal FOD often happens in the cockpit of an aircraft, where a dislodged item could hit any number of vital controls, potentially causing navigational problems.


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Post 3

@Iluviaporos - They have developed some excellent technology to help prevent bird strikes, but one of the reason they are so rare is that there is only ever a few minutes in each flight where they are even possible.

Most planes will be flying well above where any birds would go. The air is just too thin and cold up there for birds.

So, it's only on the take off and landing that it really becomes and issue.

And all the people working on aircraft know they are working with the lives of others. It's one of the reasons air traffic controller is considered one of the highest stress jobs in the world.

People do sometimes make mistakes, but I think if they take their job that seriously, the mistakes aren't going to happen very often.

Post 2

@Mor - Well, the thing that always comforts me is that every single airplane crash or even just near miss gets on to the news and stays there for days.

And when you think about how many planes are flying every single day, there really aren't all that many. So, they must have that anti-bird technology down to a fine science and it's just a freak accident whenever something goes wrong. Because with the amount of birds and planes in this world you'd think it would go wrong more often.

I'd be more worried about human error, like it said in the article, leaving a tool in the wrong place can be disastrous.

Post 1

Bird strikes are still a very real danger for aircraft. I know my local airport is near an ocean, with a lovely ocean walk beside it. And there are signs all up and down that walk instructing people not to feed the birds for any reason, just because it encourages them to gather close to the planes.

There have been many cases where a bird, or a flock of birds have been sucked into the engine and the plane has ended up crashing, although there are fewer now that the technology of aircraft is getting better and better.

Still, it makes me nervous that something so common to the air can so easily bring down an entire airplane.

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