Aviation In Canada

Monday, July 25, 2005

RADAR FOD Detection

I'm back from a well needed vacation, and we'll get right to it.

QinetiQ (What's wrong with the real spelling of the word, kinetic, anyway?) out of Britain has developed a high-resolution, short range radar which is designed to detect FOD on a runway. It has an effective range of about 2 kilometers (1 NM=~1.85km), and they say it can spot a small rock, or a wheel from a suitcase in that range, and plot it accurately within about 3m (10 feet) for pickup. The current method of FOD detection includes pilot reports, but is primarily a field foreman running the runways and taxiways in a truck, trying to spot debris. Not easy at a busy airport, at night, in the fog or any combination of these. You may have limited time to run a runway that's a mile and a half long, so you may have to scan quickly, making it easy to miss anything but the biggest piece of engine killing FOD.

At first, it may seem like something that's not significant. But if you're the one footing the bill for that little luggage wheel that just got sucked up into the multi-million dollar B777 engine, and maybe the cost of an aborted take-off or a single-engine return to point of departure, you're probably thinking, "It's about time!" The cost of FOD on aircraft, it is said, is $4 Billion US annually worldwide. Hey, it was some FOD that contributed to the demise of a Concorde a while back.

So why did I bring this British system up in Aviation in Canada? This system has been purchased by the Vancouver Airport Authority, and they'll be the first commercial airport in the world to run with it. If this radar pans out, it may very well be worth the money. We'll have to keep an eye out for fruther information.