FOD fighters: keeping the flightline clean

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Two Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base's 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron were recently sent to Graf Ignatievo Air Force Base, Bulgaria to support Operation Thracian Star by keeping a serious enemy of the 480th Fighter Squadron's F-16 Fighting Falcons off the flightline.

The enemy is foreign object debris and the Airmen drive sweepers before and after every mission to keep it off the flightline where it could damage an F-16's engine.

"Sweepers collect and pick up FOD on the flightline and we all know what FOD does to F-16 engines - it pretty much destroys them," said Staff Sgt. Andre Burris, 52nd CES pavement equipment specialist.

To prevent theĀ FOD from destroying an F-16's engine, the sweeper is the only practical solution for removing it.

"Without these you couldn't get up all the rocks off the runway," said Airman 1st Class Addison Clemons 52nd CES pavement equipment specialist. "You could have everyone out there sweeping with a broom and it still wouldn't get it all done."

Though removing the debris from the flightline is difficult, keeping it off would be impossible without these specialized machines.

"You can sweep it off but then it is just going to wash right back on when it rains," Airman Clemons said. "These have a suction underneath that picks everything up."

The ability to actually remove hazards from the runway rather than displace it is the reason the 480th FS brought two trucks from the U.S. Air Force's fleet on the trip.

"The Bulgarian sweepers do not meet the requirements for our aircraft," Sergeant Burris said. "Their [aircraft's air] intakes are a lot higher and they don't suck as much stuff off the ground where as an F-16 has its intake on the bottom.

"They have an older sweeper that has a kick-broom-type attachment on it, however, it doesn't pick anything up - it just kind of kicks it to the side," he said.

However the sweepers remove debris from the flightline there is no question that what they do is mission-essential.

"In order for the American fighters to go up, sweeping and maintaining the airfield is just as important as any other job," Sergeant Burris said. "Without us, FOD becomes an issue and the planes can't fly, taxi, land or take off.