Workers volunteer to protect airfield from debris

Screwdrivers, luggage tags and even raspberries are just some of the strange items that find their way into the engines of planes...

Tyler ORTON

Contributor

Screwdrivers, luggage tags and even raspberries are just some of the strange items that find their way into the engines of planes at Abbotsford International Airport.

But a couple dozen volunteers took to the city’s airfield last Thursday to clear the foreign object debris – or FOD – littering the premises and posing a danger to planes.

“We’ve been very lucky not to have had any major FOD issues at this airport, but this is more of a proactive team-building exercise,” the airport’s operations director Parm Sidhu said.

Abbotsford Airport’s first-ever FOD walk drew about 40 workers, including luggage handlers, WestJet employees and members of guest services. After spending a few hours cleaning litter, volunteers capped off the day with a barbecue.

Sidhu said he plans to get as many as 200 people to help with the efforts to clear the airfield next year since the impacts of the debris can be far-reaching.

“FOD costs billions of dollars damage annually (across the globe) – directly and indirectly – to this industry,” he said, adding the litter damages jet engines, which in turn causes flight delays.

He said this most frequently occurs when either wind or a plane’s tire picks up errant trash and sends it zipping into the aircraft.

Sidhu said Abbotsford’s location makes for some unique FOD problems not faced by other airports.

“(Debris) associated with agriculture is something other airfields don’t find,” he said, noting berries often make it onto the runway before getting caught in a plane’s engine.

Facilities such as Vancouver International Airport have been doing similar FOD walks for years, but Sidhu said not many small airports like Abbotsford’s are involved in these clean-ups.

“Our number one goal is to run a safe airport and our tenants have the same safety policies,” he said.