Monday, February 27, 2017

Linguistic FOD

Loose objects on the ground near airplanes have been a source of damage for most of the history of the airplane: they puncture tires, nick propellers, plug air intakes, or are flipped up by the wheels or prop wash and damage other parts of the aircraft. With the advent of the jet engine, the problem became spectacular, because a very small object can utterly destroy a jet engine. When debris on the ground causes damage to an aircraft, it's called FOD. The antecedent of "it" is vague there, because both the debris itself and the damage are termed FOD. We say that a jet engine that has injected some hard object has been "fodded."

Today I was in a lecture on safety in a non-aviation context. The powerpoint ran through a number of types of workplace safety risks, such as those associated with cranes and hoists, and then defined FOD. I think it began, "foreign objects debris occurring near airplanes and helicopters," but I was grinding my teeth and didn't hear it all.

"It stands for Foreign Object Damage!" I lamented to myself. Initially referring to the damage, the term spread to denote the debris causing the damage. I didn't mind that. I thought it was kind of cool that the stuff that caused FOD was now called FOD. But reforming it as "Foreign Object Damage" just bugged me. I self-righteously looked it up, intending to demonstrate to anyone who would listen to me that "foreign object debris" was a weird back-formation. And then I found out that, in the way of most language change, once enough people share a usage, it's not wrong anymore. It's now the way the language works. In this case, the new usage has official certification, cancelling out the old one.

I haven't verified the references, but according to this FOD prevention vendor ...

The “Damage” term was prevalent in military circles, but has since been pre-empted by a definition of FOD that looks at the “debris”. This shift was made “official” in the latest FAA Advisory Circulars FAA A/C 150/5220-24 ‘Airport Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Detection Equipment’ (2009) and FAA A/C 150/5210-24 ‘Airport Foreign Object Debris (FOD) Management’.

Eurocontrol, ECAC, and the ICAO have all rallied behind this new definition. As Iain McCreary of Insight SRI put it in a presentation to NAPFI (August 2010), “You can have debris present without damage, but never damage without debris.” Likewise, FOD prevention systems work by sensing and detecting not the damage but the actual debris.

Thus FOD is now taken to mean the debris itself, and the resulting damage is referred to as “FOD damage”.

This isn't the first time I've been so sure about something that I've gone and done the research to

prove

it, and discovered that the world has changed out from underneath me. Gotta keep moving. Also, I have at least a hundred things of higher priority than blogging about being wrong, but someone had to know that I USED to be right. Also the fact that what was originally FOD is now FOD damage kind of makes the evolution of the word cool again.

Monday, February 20, 2017

You Can Always Go Around

You might want to play the video as background music while reading or responding to this post. You've probably seen all the clips before, so you don't really need to watch it. The song, however, is good advice. I'm trying to remember the last time I did a visual go around. It's been a while. I think in the last year I've had ATC ask me to go around once when someone was slow off the runway, and I believe I've gone around of my own initiative for a tractor on the runway at an uncontrolled airport, but that may have been from a planned inspection pass rather than an intended approach to landing.

I think my recent go arounds have been more in the nature of five miles back, saying, "eh, the tailwind is too strong for this to work out. I'm going to make this a downwind for the opposite runway." I was prepared to do one not long ago when someone on frequency had reported deer near the runway, but there was no sign of them on short final. The helicopter must have scared them off. I'll be sure to practice a go-around at my upcoming recurrency training.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cargo Pilot Status

I buy a supply of non-perishable food for crews to eat in flight or when report times are earlier than restaurant times in the remote places we sometimes overnight. Even so-called "non-perishable" food gets stale eventually, so at the end of the season, I usually take the leftover unopened packages, along with my old boots and some new pairs of socks and underwear, to a homeless shelter.

Last year I forgot that season-end ritual, so in preparing for the new season I had several packages of snacks to dispose of. Most have passed their expiry date, and while I know that the food is perfectly edible, and that anyone living on the streets would probably eat far worse things, it felt kind of scummy to give actually-expired food to the shelter. The message of "this is what you deserve" could take away more than the calories gave. I didn't really want to throw food out, though. And then I realized the perfect use for them. I took them to the pilot break room at the cargo company in the next hangar down.

I was on my way back to my office before I realized the status that action assigned to cargo pilots, but I can confirm it is correct. Homeless people still have pride. I've been a cargo pilot.