Kadena airmen take annual debris walk
January 7, 2009
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The two runways at Kadena Air Base were reasonably clean Monday morning as hundreds of airmen combed the long stretches of concrete searching for pebbles and debris that potentially damage aircraft.
As they do at the start of each year, more than 450 airmen volunteered to walk the tarmac on foreign object debris patrol.
The Air Force-wide tradition spans about 20 years, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Brett Williams as he addressed the crowd Monday morning before the walk.
Kadena’s airfield was temporarily shut down for the cleanup.
FOD — which along with rocks and pebbles can include bottles, bolts, Styrofoam, even snails — are pesky articles found on an airfield that if sucked into an aircraft engine can cause hefty repairs no matter how big or small.
For instance, a rock vacuumed into a plane’s engine can cause up to $4,000 of damage to a fan blade.
But, if that same rock travels deeper into the engine and hits the internal compressor blades, repairs could cost up to $1.9 million — if the engine can be salvaged, said 18th Wing’s FOD monitor, Air Force Master Sgt. Lawrence Penrod.
Airfield personnel maintain daily upkeep of the flight line, but having a few hundred extra hands to pick up trash and loose gravel gives crews a boost in keeping the airfield clean and increases FOD awareness for base personnel, Penrod said.
The volunteer walk covered two 12,000-foot runways and individual airfield maintenance units also covered about 14 miles in parking ramps and taxiways — altogether covering more than 200 million square feet of concrete, Penrod said.
"If people are thinking about FOD and are careful to keep their areas clear, and check their tires when entering the airfield, the damage I talked about can be prevented," Penrod said.
From the show of many empty bags carried by airmen Monday, the prevention program is working.
"Last time I had like half a bag full," said Senior Airman Jennifer Coviello, 22, of the 18th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, who volunteered for the FOD walk last year.
After walking for nearly an hour Monday morning, Coviello’s garbage bag contained only a few pieces of rubber and some rocks.
Between 40 to 50 pounds of debris was collected from the runways Monday, Penrod said.
Nothing unusual was found.
Among the trash — a dead bird, fasteners and other small pieces of aircraft hardware, a piece of unidentified black cloth, one barrier cable donut, and an empty Gatorade bottle, Penrod said.
In the past three years, the program has reduced FOD damages by more than $1 million, Penrod said.
In fiscal 2005, Kadena had roughly $1.4 million in FOD damage costs, according to figures provided by Penrod. By fiscal year 2007, the number was down to $83,000 and last fiscal year only $25,163.
"It takes vigilance by everyone using the flight line to keep FOD damage under control and everyone here at Kadena is doing an excellent job of it," Penrod said.