What the FOD?
A bin bag ending up next to the runway due to the wind or a stone of only 2 centimetres on the apron. We call that FOD: Foreign Object Debris. Because everything lying on or around runways and aprons could cause damage to aircraft. A small stone could be blown into the engine and wreck the blades while the aircraft is preparing for take-off. Of course we don't want that to happen! This is why our FOD Squad is at the ready day and night to protect Schiphol against loose foreign objects.
The refuse collector(s) of Schiphol
Everywhere in the vicinity of the runways you find so-called FOD containers, which is basically a fancy word for normal bins. This is where you dump your waste when crossing the apron on your way to your aircraft and so does our staff. There are also fences along the edge of the apron, preventing the majority of FOD being blown onto the runways. A FOD clearer and sweeper are scheduled to work each shift. The brush is attached to a road sweeper similar to what you may have seen in the town where you live. He or she will drive along the piers sweeping everything up. The FOD clearer is actually the Schiphol refuse collector, who removes the waste from the fences and ensures that all 200 bins are emptied.
FOD by night
During the night we take the sweeper across all taxiways and runways which is something we can't do during daytime due to busy air traffic. We sweep about three times a week. Did you know that we collect about 50 to 80 kilograms of FOD per runway? This is made up mostly of small stones. It so happens that a runway has an anti-skid top layer which you could compare to a type of sandpaper. It ensures sufficient roughness of the surface making it easier for aircraft to brake and slow down. As there are many aircraft taking off and landing on the runway each day, you can imagine those stones coming loose at some moment in time. This results in FOD and is also the reason why we have to perform major maintenance on our runways once every while in order to renew the anti-skid layer along with other things.
From bin bag to carp
How does FOD end up on the apron and alongside taxiways? This can happen in various ways. For example, there is almost always some work in progress on and around the airfield, such as apron maintenance. And there is always the possibility of items being blown in the direction of runways. A live carp was once found at our neighbouring airport Rotterdam, accidentally dropped by an overflying heron. So you can find very odd things that all fit the FOD description. But whether it's a carp (that they neatly returned to the ditch, by the way), a load of little stones or a Hawaiian Lei necklace, we will always get rid of it. Why? So that you can fly safely!