Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell
Safety Management Systems
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines a safety management system (SMS) as a "system to assure the safe operation of aircraft through effective management of safety risk…designed to continuously improve safety by identifying hazards, collecting and analyzing data and continuously assessing safety risks."1 SMS has four main elements: safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion.
The FAA is pursuing several SMS initiatives simultaneously as part of an international effort to implement SMS throughout the aviation industry. The FAA has said it will implement SMS for all aviation components that it oversees or regulates: airports, air carriers, and air traffic. This discussion paper focuses narrowly on FAA’s SMS initiative for airports.
On October 7, 2010, the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend FAR Part 139 to add the following requirement: "Each certificate holder, or applicant for an Airport Operating Certificate, must develop and maintain an Airport Safety Management System that is approved by the Administrator."2
On July 14, 2016, the FAA published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) that modifies the NPRM and addresses many, but not all, of the comments submitted in response to the NPRM. The major changes from the NPRM to the SNPRM, as well as a summary of potential issues with the SNPRM, is included in sections II and III.
The deadline to submit comments to the SNPRM was September 12, 2016.3
The FAA has modified the proposal set forth in the NPRM in an effort to address some, but not all, of the concerns raised by airports. In conclusion, the major changes in the SNPRM modify the NPRM by:
Throughout the SNPRM, the FAA requests input and comments from interested parties who may be impacted by the proposed changes in the SNPRM. Airport sponsors and other interested parties should take advantage of this opportunity to provide input and, where warranted, request additional information or explanation from the FAA if previous comments or concerns were not adequately addressed.
No participant in the aviation industry ever wants to oppose reasonable safety efforts. Nevertheless, the FAA’s SMS initiatives have the potential to pose considerable new administrative, recordkeeping, and oversight obligations on certain Part 139 airports. Airports need to consider how to prepare for these possible new obligations and to identify funding and administrative structures in advance.
Although the precise SMS requirements may well change when the FAA considers comments on its proposed rule, it is almost certain that some new SMS requirements will be imposed.
In preparing comments, remember to comment on both the changes in the SNPRM and the original NPRM. Airports should consider the following issues if they are planning to submit comment on the SNPRM and airport SMS generally:
This discussion paper is not intended to provide legal advice but is provided as information as a courtesy to our clients and friends. Please contact your attorney for legal advice.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the topics addressed in this discussion paper, please contact Peter Kirsch at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303.825.7000.
1 FAA, Draft Advisory Circular 150/5200-37A, 1 (June 21, 2016) (citing the International Civil Aviation Organization, Safety Management Manual, 6.5.3 ICAO Doc. 9859-AN/4744 (3rd ed. 2013)).
2 FAA, Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Safety Management System for Certificated Airports, 81 Fed. Reg. 45872 (July 14, 2016).
3 Id. at 45872.
4 Id. at 45875.
6 Id. at 45876.
9 Id. at 45884.
11 Id. at 45907.
15 Id. at 45883.
16 Id. at 45887.
17 Id. at 45888.
19 Id. at 45881.
24 Id. at 45882.
A PDF of this discussion paper is available.