Is a “Trash-nado” a scary thing? I interview a former commercial pilot about it.

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During one of my mileage runs that passed through Atlanta, I had a chance to sit in the “E” food court area and it was a bit of a windy day. Out side the window I saw the above and it got me thinking – how big a deal is trash floating around at an airport? Also, all the above you see is on the secure part of this airport.

I reached out to a former commercial airline pilot, Boarding Area’s own MJ on Travel to get some insight. Here is our interview about the video I shot.

Hi MJ thanks for this chat.

Hello Rene. Nice to see you again.

So the little “trash-nado” bothered me a bit when I shot it. Should it?

Well, Not really. Don’t get me wrong… aircraft ramp areas should be kept free as possible of trash and debris…. and someone should clean up the area you were filming, but I did not see any aircraft in the immediate area.

OK interesting, but how much damage could a tiny bit of trash really do to a jet? It is just a coffee cup, a plastic drink bottle and some paper trash!

Well, I wouldn’t lay awake at night over a coffee cup, but I think most people would be surprised at the things that could damage a jet engine. I remember taxiing out for takeoff in my “younger” days and what appeared to be a broken fan belt from a ground vehicle was lying on the ramp area. It was lying on the ground and did no harm to the airplane I was flying, but the Captain I was flying with certainly called it into the ramp tower for someone to come pick up. If you think back to US 1549, a flock of geese managed to do significant damage to an aircraft’s engines…. I doubt that before that anyone other than the most informed flyers would think that birds could cause that much damage.

Who is responsible for cleaning this kind of stuff up?

The airlines frequently do what I call FOD walks or foreign object damage walks. Any aircraft operator worth their salt should do relatively frequent patrols of ramp areas looking for FOD.

OK thanks there is a lot to keep track of turning a jet from arrival to departure. Anything else you want to add?

In the end.. foreign objects and debris are a fact of life at the airport. Aircraft operators must take it upon themselves to frequently patrol ramp areas for FOD, and take steps to remove it for safety reasons.

Thanks so much MJ for your time. I hope you take the time to read MJ on Travel blog here at BoardingArea. Even though he is known as a “frequent floater” due to his love for all things cruising, he KNOWS the airline industry and I have respected his blog for a very long time.


So it is good to learn a bit about trash, and what can and cannot hurt a jet, but in the end, as you can see above, birds are one thing we should be more concerned about than over drink bottle and a coffee cup! – René

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