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FOD for thought

Priced at more than $3,700,000 each, a B-1 bomber’s engines and a variety of other vital parts – flight controls, ejection seats, cockpit controls and others – can easily become inoperative if an object finds its way into the wrong place. The primary method Ellsworth employs to prevent incidents like this from unfolding is the Foreign Object Damage program – a program designed to eliminate any foreign objects that can cause damage to aircraft and equipment. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan/Released)

Priced at more than $3,700,000 each, a B-1 bomber’s engines and a variety of other vital parts – flight controls, ejection seats, cockpit controls and others – can easily become inoperative if an object finds its way into the wrong place. The primary method Ellsworth employs to prevent incidents like this from unfolding is the Foreign Object Damage program – a program designed to eliminate any foreign objects that can cause damage to aircraft and equipment. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Imagine losing your line badge on the flightline, and finding out later you were responsible for causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to an aircraft.

Priced at more than $3,700,000 each, a B-1 bomber's engines and a variety of other vital parts - flight controls, ejection seats, cockpit controls and others - can easily become inoperative if an object finds its way into the wrong place.

The primary method Ellsworth employs to prevent incidents like this from unfolding is the Foreign Object Damage program - a program designed to eliminate any foreign objects that can cause damage to aircraft and equipment.

Master Sgt. Lance Stephenson, 28th Bomb Wing FOD Program manager, said in addition to the damage that can be caused to aircraft and equipment, foreign objects can endanger the lives of aircrew and maintainers in serious harm's way.

"Things happen," Stephenson said. "Pilots could lose control of their aircraft, and, if they can't eject because of FOD, things could get ugly quickly. Even for maintainers - something could catastrophically fail during routine maintenance or system checks and they might not be able to get clear of the danger."

Charles Abt, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron M-1 Support Services manager, said his team of maintainers take a number of steps to ensure the safety of all equipment and personnel.

"All areas that perform maintenance are required to perform a FOD walk prior to the start of performing maintenance," Abt said. "They will continually clean up after themselves as they go throughout their day. In the maintenance world, tool control is imperative."

Abt said all tools that are used are accounted for by etching an identification number on them. He said tools are also inventoried prior to the start and completion of every job.

"Once something is identified as missing MX (maintenance) is stopped and a search begins until the tool is recovered," noted Abt.

Stephenson added that the FOD program practices are some of the easiest and most preventable methods all personnel can practice to ensure the mission remains unhindered.

"Ultimately, it is the difference between a major catastrophe and a successful day of flying - which reaps huge rewards for the wing," Stephenson stressed.

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