Kelowna International Airport wrapped up national Airport Safety Week Friday with a sweep of its taxiway, looking for what airport officials call “foreign object debris.”
A large group of volunteer “sweepers” walked the length of the taxiway looking for debris—anything form small pieces of metal, rocks, pens, and paper to containers, rags, and others objects that could be run over by an aircraft and could lead to devastating consequences.
Similar organized sweeps, carried out by trained airport operations personnel, occur daily on YLW’s runway as one of the many safety precautions employed at the airport.
“On the air-side (where the airplanes take off, land and are parked) we are always looking for FOD,” said Darrell Belgrove, YLW’s fire chief.
Belgrove said the runway sweep is one of the most important tasks his staff carry out because of the problems FOD could cause.
He pointed to the deadly 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde jet in Paris that burst into flames on takeoff after blowing a tire as it sped down the runway.
Investigators found that the cause of the tire blowout—which lead to a fuel tank being punctured, a fire, crash and the death of all 109 people on board and four others on the ground—was a small metal strip which fell off a plane that landed on the runway just minutes earlier. As the Concorde sped down the runway for take off, it ran over the metal strip.
With the airport volunteers Friday, the FOD walk at YLW collected a small debris—as well as some items deliberately left on the taxiway by organizers to illustrate the problem.
It capped Airport Safety Week at the airport, an annual event that highlights the importance of every aspect of safety at YLW.
The Kelowna airport is the 11th busiest in Canada and handles 1.6 million passengers per year. Each day it sees 60 flights takeoff and land on its runway.