NTSB Safety Alert: Control Foreign Object Debris

Account for all items after performing maintenance tasks!

The problem:

  • Mechanics, or others who help with aircraft maintenance, might leave items or residual debris behind after performing maintenance tasks that could become foreign object debris (FOD). Examples of FOD include tools, hardware, eyeglasses, keys, portable electronic devices (PEDs), paint chips, and metal shavings.
  • If mechanics and others do not account for every item that they use in or around an aircraft and clean as they go, this FOD can beĀ ingested into the engine or interfere with critical flight systems, leading to an accident.

What can you do?

  • Perform an inventory of tools, personal items, AND personal protective equipment before working on an aircraft. Take only what is necessary for the specific maintenance task. Consider placing nonessential personal items, such as jewelry, coins, keys, and PEDs, in a secure location instead of keeping them with you during maintenance tasks.
  • Prepare the workspace on the aircraft by covering up engines, pitot static ports, air inlets, and other areas with protective materials to reduce the likelihood of FOD migration (including residual debris, such as paint chips or metal shavings) to critical flight systems. SA-054 June 2016.
  • While working in low visibility areas (ramp/hangar), ensure that proper lighting is used to check for FOD left behind during maintenance.
  • Keep hardware and consumables in appropriate containers to prevent them from becoming FOD. Store tools in tool boxes and bags, and organize them in a manner so that you can easily recognize if one or more is missing.
  • Distractions can cause you to forget things during maintenance tasks. Always follow the maintenance manual/task card and use a checklist. If you get distracted, go back three steps when restarting your work.
  • As you perform the maintenance task, clean as you go to reduce the likelihood of leaving any items. Keep a FOD container next to you during the maintenance task for easy FOD disposal.
  • Perform a second inventory of tools, any essential personal items, AND personal protective equipment (such as safety glasses, gloves, and hearing protection) after you have completed the maintenance task to ensure that items have not been left behind. Remove any aircraft protective materials so that they do not become FOD.
  • Ask another mechanic to visually inspect your work area for any items that may become FOD. A second set of eyes may see something that you missed.
  • Recognize that human factors issues such as complacency, fatigue, pressure, stress, and a lack of situation awareness can contribute to FOD.
  • Consider conducting daily FOD walks in areas such as hangars, ramps, and runways to identify and remove FOD.

Interested in more information? Click here to read the full NTSB Safety Alert.