By Maria Jose Subiria
Volunteers lined up to board buses around 6:30 a.m., Thursday, on their way to a runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Their mission: search for and collect FOD, foreign object debris, on runway 8L/26R.
More than 200 airport employees volunteered for the eighth annual Foreign Object Debris Walk, looking for rocks, luggage straps, plastics and any type of metal that might have somehow found its way out onto the runway.
"It teaches everybody that FOD is out there, and even on the runway you find FOD," said Neil Deevy, senior operations supervisor for the airport operations division at Hartsfield-Jackson.
Deevy, who serves on the National Aerospace FOD Prevention, Inc., board of directors, said he and the FOD committee at Hartsfield-Jackson plan the events surrounding the annual FOD Walk. The airport's FOD committee is comprised of airline representatives, tenants and the Department of Aviation.
"FOD is something you've got to keep up with," said Jim Stephan, who works in corporate safety for Delta Air Lines. "People are cognitive about it all the time."
Organizers say the FOD Walk helps raise awareness of the toll foreign object debris can take on an airplane.
"It saves millions of dollars," said Bill Talton, a manager of flying for AirTran Airways. "If an airplane picks up a piece of metal, it could ruin the engine."
While Walter Como, tech publications supervisor for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, is no stranger to the airfield, Thursday was his first time participating in the walk.
According to Como, during his eight-and-a-half-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, he was responsible for cleaning ramp areas every Monday morning. Though Thursday's event wasn't a new experience for him, he said he believes such walks are educational for those who acquire aviation jobs, but are not exposed to the airfield.
"I found safety wires that are used to secure bolts so they don't back out during vibrations of flights," he said.
Charles Void, a customer service agent for Delta Air Lines, said he enjoys the FOD Walks because of what he finds, like currency from different parts of the world. He said he once found a Casio keyboard.
"I've been doing this for 13 1/2 years in Orlando, and the majority here," said Void. "The money thing gets you going, and oh yeah, it's always good exercise," he said.
Store operator HMSHost provided breakfast for the volunteers after the search for debris on the runway. The FOD Walk also included a raffle and shirt, travel bag and cap giveaways.
"It's very important to make everyone aware of FOD in the airport, and what it could do to an airplane," said Tim Slaney, general manager for HMSHost, which operates several stores at Hartsfield-Jackson. "We want to support the airport in any way we can, and this is a way of doing this."