[The “special language” – i.e. acronymns – used by the military and the aviation industry has always fascinated me. My son the helicopter pilot can speak whole sentences using nothing but the first initials of words and phrases (with a conjunction thrown in here and there for clarity). Today is the first of a random blog series that focuses on a single acronym and explains what it is and why it matters. For those of you who use these regularly, if I goof feel free to comment and correct so we all continue to learn.]
In the field of aviation, it’s accepted that a safe takeoff must be followed by an equally safe landing for a flight to be considered successful. Equipment, pilot skill, and weather are all factors in this concept. Another input is the condition of the runway. Since few runways are privately owned, most flying is done out of airports. Walking the runway is not typically included in the pilot’s pre-flight walk around of the airplane, so pilots must assume that the airport has ensured that the runway surface is solid and well-marked from beginning to end.
The runway also needs to be clean and sometimes this can be a crapshoot. Certainly when a runway is covered in two feet of volcanic ash (see last week’s blog), everyone is aware of it. But what about the stray piece of anything that falls off of an airplane that previously used the runway? Certainly the most famous incident of that nature in this century (so far) was the piece of metal on the runway that Air France 4590 hit as it took off out of Paris’ Charles DeGaulle airport in July 2000. It punctured a tire and the resulting debris caused a quick series of incidents that ultimately brought down the airplane – a Concorde SST - and killed more than 100 people, including some on the ground.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governs American airports and they have published a boatload of information regarding the management of Foreign Object Debris (FOD). What I’ve been reading has really opened my eye to the fact that a lot more items can be considered FOD than what I had thought and that more areas than the actual runway can be affected by FOD. Besides whatever can fall off of an airplane, tools, catering supplies, luggage parts, pens and pencils (!), chunks of concrete and asphalt, paint chips (!!), construction materials, miscellaneous plastics, snow and ice, and “natural material” – plants and wildlife – can become FOD. Speaking of wildlife as FOD, I’d be curious to know if the flock of geese that flew into the engines of US Airways 1549 are considered to be gravitationally-challenged FOD!
Related (sort of) to the Miracle on the Hudson, there’s another interesting story of a water ditching of a Pan Am (for you youngsters, that’s short for Pan American Airlines – the former premier international carrier) 4-engine Boeing Stratocruiser into the Pacific between Hawaii and San Francisco in 1956. Read about it here.
So where are the Mustang and RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit going to be next week? That would be the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC from Wednesday, the 11th through Saturday, the 14th. Read more here.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron wishes everyone who will be celebrating a religious holiday this weekend a happy Easter and a sweet Passover.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.