Runway cleanup at SFO scheduled for today

Wind-blown garbage, tools left over from airplane mechanics or wires falling off trucks zipping back and forth on the runway can spell serious trouble for an airplane engine, airport officials say.

Debris-related accidents have not occurred at SFO, but they’ve been known to happen at other airports. Investigators concluded, for example, that a metal piece of debris on the runway at Charles de Gaulle International Airport near Paris was one of the primary reasons for the deadly 2000 crash of an Air France flight heading to New York.

To avoid such catastrophes, representatives from almost all departments at San Francisco International Airport, and at least half a dozen airlines, will take to the runways today to clear debris.

The group will spend hours clearing two of the airport’s four runways of everything that “isn’t tied down,” spokesman Mike McCarron said.

FOD, or foreign object debris, can be hail or snow, but at SFO, it’s typically paper, plastic and cardboard, with the occasional set of wire cables falling off trucks on the runway, McCarron said.

Some 50 to 60 flights scheduled this morning, an off-peak time chosen to minimize impacts on travelers, will be diverted to the other two runways. No delays are expected.

The airports are ultimately responsible for all runway cleanups, but airlines are also expected to pitch in and clear out their own areas.

United Airlines spokesman Brandon Borrman said that runway personnel are trained to keep an eye out for all forms of debris. Maintenance teams also have toolbox inventory procedures to ensure all tools have been removed and stored before flights.

“A lot of it is situational awareness,” Borrman said.

The Federal Aviation Administration makes annual checks of air carrier airports such as SFO, spokesman Ian Gregor said. Such airports are required to inspect runways, taxiways and ramps daily, and submit findings to the FAA.

Airports are also responsible for filling cracks in the pavement, clearing gravel and scrubbing rubber tire deposits off these areas.

Failure to maintain a proper runway area results in a request from the FAA to do the needed work by a deadline, Gregor said.

In very rare cases, it can result in a fine or an order to cease operations.

The sixth-annual cleanup will not cost the airport or airlines any extra money, as all employers gave employees time to participate in the event.

A crew of roughly a dozen workers regularly removes debris, but the showing is designed to highlight the importance of constant vigilance on the runways for all airport employees, McCarron said.

tramroop@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco supervisors approved zoning changes that will allow a chain grocery store to occupy the bottom floor of the 555 Fulton St. condo building. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Trader Joe’s approved for Hayes Valley, bringing long-awaited grocery store

New Seasons Market canceled plans at 555 Fulton St. citing construction delays

Gov. Newsom wants $4.2 billion to finish the Central Valley link for the bullet train, but legislators aren’t sold. (Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock; CA High Speed Rail Authority; Shae Hammond for CalMatters)
Bullet train budget battle: Should California spend more on urban transit, not high-speed rail?

By Marissa Garcia CalMatters High-speed rail was supposed to connect California’s urban… Continue reading

Cooks work in the kitchen at The Vault Garden. (Courtesy Hardy Wilson)
Help wanted: SF restaurants are struggling to staff up

Some small businesses have to ‘sweeten the pot’ when hiring workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda during a March 2021 press conference. (Credit Ed Reed/EdSource)
How California plans to deter costly special education disputes

Fund is meant to help parents and schools settle differences before heading to court

Most Read