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10 ways to prevent plane bird strikes

An interesting article from the BBC today titled “10 ways to prevent plane bird strikes

Hardly a week goes by without a plane somewhere in the US making an emergency landing after hitting birds. As these incidents reach record levels, airports are coming up with increasingly imaginative ways of combating them.

Detection using RADAR gets in mention in item 10:

10.The Dutch air force is using a bird detecting radar that could eventually be adopted by civil aircraft. “We’ve known since WWII that radar can see birds, when they were coming across the Channel and they figured it was birds and not German bombers,” says Begier. These bird detecting radars are small and mobile, and technology has come on in the last 10 years, but they can’t yet identify the species or numbers. “The ability to delay a commercial flight with technology that’s not quite there is the problem.”

The above might be referring to the robin radar system.

Source: BBC

FOD (Foreign Object Debris) Detector for Airport – THAILAND

Just noticed a call for information on FOD detection systems over on the atc-network website, it’s a bit sparse on details, but it appears to be a request for information (not a formal Tender request) from Thailand.

Here’s the link

Crash at Cork International Airport

There has been a crash at Cork International Airport, six people have been reported dead. For more news see the BBC here, or the Google realtime results.

The Irish Aviation Authority have issued the following statement:

1015hrs 10 February 2011: Flight Avia No FLT400C a metroliner SW4 with ten passengers and two crew has crashed at Cork Airport. No details of injuries or fatalities are available. The aircraft made an approach to Runway 17 in low vis conditions (Category 2) and went around and did not land and attempted a second landing on Runway 35. The aircraft then went around a second time and came back for an approach to Runway 17. On the second approach to Runway 17 the aircraft crashed adjacent to Taxiway C. Rescue and Fire crew are in attendance. There is a fire and debris has been scattered onto the runway and over a wide area. The accident will be investigated by the Air Accident Unit of the Dept. of Transport. This is correct at this time and may be amended as more detail becomes available. (source)

My thoughts go out to the friends and family of those involved.

How important is detection time?

I received an email recently (an anonymous email!) which questioned the effectiveness of those FOD detection systems which have a detection time greater than the mean time between aircraft movements. The question in the email was this, “Did you neglect the timing requirement [detection time] when you did your system design???[sic]“ The suggestion was that detection time should be the fundamental design consideration when building a FOD detection system. Personally I believe that reducing the risk from FOD should be the key design consideration. The idea that detection time is the key is based on the following argument:

If a system takes 6 minutes to detect an item of FOD, and the next aircraft is due in 4 minutes, then the FOD detection system is completely ineffective at reducing risk.

It’s the sort of argument that people in marketing dream of, not only does it appear to make a lot of sense, but FOD detection time is easy to quantify, and therefore it’s easy to compare across the various systems. Unfortunately, it does not stand up to any form of rigorous analysis. So, let’s take at look at this in more detail, the first thing we need to do is to define the risk from FOD.


Is FOD detection dead?

When I started this site it was my hope that it would be full of articles announcing the sale of FOD detection systems to major airports all over the world. Since the birth of the site back in January (2010) not a single sale has been announced by any of the vendors. Even the recent BAA/QinetiQ conference resulted in no news of sales (actually, it hardly generated any news at all).  I’m in the process of writing an article that describes the current situation with regard to the FOD detection market, my hope is to publish the article during January to mark the 1st anniversary of the website.

I’d like to hear from people who have considered purchasing a FOD detection system, but have, for one reason or another, decided not to proceed. If you would like to contribute then please use the contact form and get in touch. All communication will be strictly confidential.

AINonline FOD article

AINonline have just posted an article that summarizes the current state of the FOD detection landscape.

Here’s an extract:

Since the Concorde accident, four automatic systems have been developed and have been evaluated by the FAA’s Center of Excellence for Airport Technology at the University of Illinois. All four met FAA criteria, and are each eligible for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding, effective October 1. One major airport in the Northeast is understood to have ­submitted its AIP application already.

Read the full article here.

Diversified Secure Ventures Corp

I’ve been aware for sometime of a patent describing a FOD detection system written by Hilary Vieira, the patent was eventually passed to a company called Secure Runway Systems corp, who went on to become Diversified Secure Ventures Corp. They issued a press release on 22nd June outlining their wish to build a FOD detection system based on the patent.

The patent basically describes a number of monitoring devices located alongside a runway, where the monitoring device:

includes at least one of a video camera, single-frame camera, infrared camera, high definition camera, Light Detection and Ranging device.

The detection is then done by comparing a baseline image to the current image:

at least one monitoring device generates baseline image data associated with a first condition, generates other image data associated with at least a second condition and the at least one processor compares the image data associated with the conditions to determine whether foreign object debris is present in the at least one runway area (more…)

Found some FOD? There’s an app for that


…well, there isn’t, but I firmly believe there should be.

I’ve just read through the new FAA draft Circular on FOD Management, and it discusses the fact that it’s the responsibility of everyone to report FOD if they come across it. I believe that if you want people to do something, especially if it’s not their main role, you have to:

  • make the function quick and easy to perform, and
  • offer an incentive.

And let’s get one thing straight, asking a contractor who’s working airside to visit an office on the far side of the airfield to locate and complete a FOD reporting form does neither of these, it’s definitely not quick, and there’s no incentive. Actually it’s more likely to get them into trouble with their boss as they’d have to explain why they’d not been doing their job for the last 30 minutes!

The first thing you have to do is to give the person who found the FOD a method of recording the event then and there, because if they plan to leave it until the end of their shift then it’s not going to get done at all, and I’m not talking about a new device for them to carry around all day, because they won’t carry it. You have to take advantage of the fact that it’s very likely that they’re carrying a small recording device with them anyway, and yes, if you haven’t already guessed from the mock poster above, I’m talking about a smartphone.

There are 3 reasons why  smartphones are perfect for recording FOD finds:

  • they have cameras
  • they have GPS
  • they can transmit data

The apps function would be very simple with the help of mobile testing services, take a picture of the FOD, select a category (wildlife, tools etc), and assign a risk (low, medium, high), that’s it. The image would be tagged with the location via GPS,and the data would then be sent to a central database. Once the FOD find has been recorded, the app could then give the location of the nearest FOD bin, or supply the phone number of the FOD manager.

Provide an incentive

Even if something is quick and easy to do people still need an incentive to do it. If the user who downloads the app also has to register, then any FOD finds they record will be registered against them, and then it’s simply a case of offering some form of reward, e.g. entry into a monthly prize draw. The more FOD they record the more likely they are to win.

Make it global

One of the advantages of this concept is that once a user has downloaded the app and registered as a user, it could be used on any airfield in the world, the GPS data would be all that’s required to identify the airfield, and this location information would then supply custom information back to the user i.e. the phone number of the FOD manager and the location of the FOD bins (or any FOD procedures that are unique to the airfield)

It’s all about the sharing

Where would all this FOD information go? I would strongly suggest to a single, centrally (FAA?) managed database. Airports could be given access via a website to the data collected from 100’s of airports, this data could then be used to generate better targeted FOD procedures.

If you have any thoughts on this concept then please leave a comment in the comments section below, or get in touch via the contact form.

Concorde to fly again?

Just over a week after the Concorde trial in France came to a close it has been announced that Concorde might return to the skies. According to the article at the BBC:

The engines on a French Concorde are to be examined as the first move in a £15m project aiming to get the supersonic passenger jet back in the air.

The article goes on to state:

It is hoped the jet will be able to fly as part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

The verdict from the trial is expected on December 6th .

Real snow and ice!

A friend of mine who’s currently working for the British Antarctic Survey read my recent post regarding the Tarsier system and its performance in snow. So he sent me a picture he’d taken at the SkyBlu Logistics Facility.

The blue ice runway is groomed by the camp staff using commercial lightweight snow ploughs and blowers (which could be shipped in by Dash 7 aircraft). When the wind is favourable, and the conditions good, a runway 1.2 km in length and 50 m wide is possible. However, operations are often hampered by much lighter winds causing knee high snow drifts which reduce contrast. The runway is marked by flags and large colourful bin bags to improve contrast for approaching planes.

Given the fact that they’re using bin bags to improve the contrast for pilots, I think they probably have a few key items to purchase before splashing out on a FOD detection system!

SkyBlu Runway

Click to zoom

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