1. How long does the certification process take?

  2. How do I start the certification process?

  3. What kind of help can I expect from the FAA?

  4. When do I have to have an airplane?

  5. Do the Certification Process Document (CPD) steps have to be done sequentially?

  6. Do I have to incorporate the six safety attributes into my system processes?

  7. How many Safety Attribute Inspection data collection tools do I have to complete?

  8. What happens if all of the Safety Attribute Inspection (SAI) questions cannot be answered "yes"?

  9. Does my manual system have to be "compliant," "aligned," "integrated," or "conformed" to the Air Transportation Oversight System (ATOS)?

  10. Does ATOS impose new requirements on the applicant or air carrier?

  11. Are there any new regulations that require the carriers to revise their programs to meet the ATOS requirements?

  12. Can my carrier get access to this program or share this Data Base with the FAA and/or other carriers?

  13. How does my carrier become ATOS compliant?

  14. If System Safety is so important that it is part of the FAA's oversight program, why has it not become a regulatory requirement?

  15. If an SMS is not a required program right now, why should I have one?

  16. What computer program is the ATOS Database?


  1. How long does the certification process take?

  2. The answer to this question depends on the quality of the submissions in your Formal Application Package. Using the Safety Attribute Inspection (SAI) data collection tools to audit your safety-critical processes will greatly improve the quality of your Formal Application Package, especially your company manuals and other system documentation, and will reduce the amount of time needed to complete the certification process.

  3. How do I start the certification process?

  4. Contact your local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for information on the certification process. You can locate the office nearest you by visiting the FAA Public website at http://www.faa.gov.

  5. What kind of help can I expect from the FAA?

  6. The FAA can give you guidance on FAA processes such as ATOS. According to Title 49 USC, air carriers have a duty to provide service with the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest, and FAA must determine that an air carrier applicant is equipped and able to operate safely before issuing an operating certificate. (See Title 49 USC, Sections 44702 and 44705.) Refer to paragraph 10-2 in FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 10, Chapter 1, Section 1.

  7. When do I have to have an airplane?

  8. In the Formal Application Package, you have to be able to identify the airplane you intend to use by make/model/serial number so that you can write your training programs and maintenance programs. You do not have to have actual possession of the airplane; you can show intent by including a lease or purchase agreement in your Formal Application Package.

  9. Do the Certification Process Document (CPD) steps have to be done sequentially?

  10. There is some flexibility about when a CPD step should be accomplished. For example, with approval from the AFS 900 Manager, the Certification Process Manager (CPM) can use the Aircraft Configuration Job Aid at any time in the certification process if there are concerns about the applicant’s airplane.

  11. Do I have to incorporate the six safety attributes into my system processes?

  12. Inspectors use Safety Attribute Inspections (SAIs) to collect data for ATOS design assessments. They are organized into five sections, each addressing the safety attributes. One section covers responsibility and authority. The other sections cover procedures, controls, process measures, and interfaces. These safety attributes are not standards that have to be incorporated into your system processes. However, they do provide a logical structure for the Certification Project Manager to determine whether an air carrier applicant’s system process or program meets the full intent of a regulation. In other words, does the system or program meet the literal requirements and intent of the regulations, and is it capable of identifying operational hazards and managing associated risk (PDF)?

  13. How many Safety Attribute Inspection (SAI) data collection tools do I have to complete?

  14. You must audit your processes using any SAI data collection tool that contains regulatory requirements that apply to your proposed scope of operations.

  15. What happens if all of the Safety Attribute Inspection (SAI) questions cannot be answered "yes"?

  16. All applicants and certificate holders have some "No" answers. "No" answers do not automatically equate to an unsafe condition or a regulatory violation, unless that particular "No" has a regulatory basis and the documented process includes a possible violation or an unsafe condition. "No" answers fall into one of these categories:

    • The first category of "no" answers represents compliance issues that are tied to literal regulatory requirements. The issues associated with these "no" answers will require modifications to the process design.
    • The second category of "no" answers represents compliance issues that do not require any action. For example, a single "no" may be an outlying data point of no consequence, or it may represent a hazard with associated risk that is being managed at an acceptable level. Another example in this category is a "no" answer related to a safety attribute that is not significant for approval or acceptance of a system or program or is not essential to the performance of a system or program.
    • A final category of "no" answers provides evidence that a process does not meet the intent of a regulation and, therefore, requires you to alter the design of your processes. ATOS tools help the FAA describe the system deficiency by referring to the safety attributes and by reviewing how the deficiency ultimately relates to the 49 USC requirements you need to meet to identify hazards and manage associated risks. If you do not make acceptable corrections, then it may be appropriate to withhold, limit, or alter operating approvals and authorizations.

  17. Does my manual system have to be "compliant," "aligned," "integrated," or "conformed" to ATOS?

  18. The transition to ATOS has prompted some industry representatives and FAA inspectors to inquire how air carriers can prepare their manuals to become "compliant," "aligned," "integrated," or "conformed" to ATOS. While these questions are well intentioned, they reveal the disconnect from the intent of the program. ATOS does not prescribe a format for air carrier manuals. There is no such thing as an ATOS compliant manual (PDF).

    The requirements mentioned in the question imply that ATOS is a standard, which it is not. ATOS is an oversight system for use by inspectors, not a set of standards or processes with which an operator must comply. ATOS helps inspectors determine regulatory compliance, but does not impose new or additional requirements or standards.

  19. Does ATOS impose new requirements on the applicant or air carrier?

  20. System safety requirements are not new. They have a basis in the regulations. The regulatory theory that underlies system safety proclaims that inherent in Title 49, United States Code (49 USC) is the requirement for air carriers to identify operational hazards and manage associated risks. In its simplest form, the rationale for system safety is outlined in Title 49 USC, which states that air carriers have a duty to provide service with the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest, and FAA must determine that an air carrier applicant is equipped and able to operate safely before issuing an operating certificate. (See 49 USC, Sections 44702 and 44705.) Refer to paragraph 10-2 in 8900.1, Volume 10, Chapter 1, Section 1.

    In Title 49 USC,
    • The word "safety" must be operationally defined in order for these statutory requirements to be meaningful. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and FAA Order 8000.1 define safety as "the state in which the risk of harm to persons or property damage is reduced to, and maintained at or below, an acceptable level through a continuing process of hazard identification and risk management".
    • Therefore, inherently, the statute states that in order to operate safely, air carriers must be able to identify hazards in their operating environments and to manage associated risks. FAA must determine an operator’s capability to do so before issuing an operating certificate.

    ATOS did not invent these requirements. They have existed since the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. The objective of ATOS is to ensure that the Flight Standards Service and certificate holders meet their separate responsibilities in accordance with Title 49 USC. Title 49 USC underpins the regulations in Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR). In other words, at a high level, the statutory requirement for air carriers to be able to identify operational hazards and manage associated risks is carried over into the intent of regulations in 14 CFR. Certificate holders must meet the literal requirements of the regulations as well as their intent. To meet the intent of the regulations, the systems and programs an air carrier uses to conduct its business and to comply with the regulations must be capable of identifying the hazards in the operating environment and managing associated risk.

  21. Are there any new regulations that require the carriers to revise their programs to meet the ATOS requirements?

  22. No. ATOS is an oversight methodology used by FAA inspectors to conduct certification and surveillance of 14CFR Part 121 air carriers.

  23. Can my carrier get access to this program or share this Data Base with the FAA and/or other carriers?

  24. No, this Data Base is internal to the FAA. Additionally, the ATOS program is a continual improvement program and changes can occur week to week. Major changes to the Data Collection Tools and system functionality are scheduled at various times throughout the year. It is best for certificate holders to download current information from the ATOS public web site at the time they need it. You are also encouraged to contact your FAA Certificate Management Office for assistance.

  25. How does my carrier become ATOS compliant?

  26. ATOS is an oversight methodology for use by inspectors, not a set of standards or processes that an operator must comply with. To suggest that an operator must comply with this oversight process is to misconstrue the intent of the system. The term "compliance" as commonly used has referred to regulatory issues. While encouraged, there is no regulatory directive for a carrier to incorporate the underlying concepts of System Safety or to reference the ATOS surveillance tools in any aspect of their operations. Air Carrier certification and surveillance is are based on the regulations requirements and structures specifically outlined in 14 CFR Part 121 the Code of Federal Regulations.

  27. If System Safety is so important that it is part of the FAA's oversight program, why has it not become a regulatory requirement?

  28. System Safety/Risk Management, as presented in the ATOS process, is only one tool for achieving FAA oversight objectives. FAA Regulations dictate what a carrier has to do, not how to do it. The FAA developed ATOS from several different system safety approaches to form a program that works for them. Certificate holders may choose to adopt the ATOS methodology or develop their own to suite their individual needs. Certificate holders may find it beneficial to use the ATOS approach, however, so that both they and the FAA are looking at the air carriers systems the same way.

  29. If an SMS is not a required program right now, why should I have one?

  30. The International Civil Aviation Organization has adopted a rule requiring that all member states require all air carriers to implement and document a Safety Management System (SMS). The rule has been in effect for some time and many member states have implemented it. If an air carrier is flying to a member state that chooses to enforce the rule the carrier may be denied entry or not allowed to depart without documentation of a SMS. Implementing a SMS during the certification process will serve the interest of operating to the highest level of safety and may be a necessity for international operations.

  31. What computer program is the ATOS Database?

  32. The ATOS Program uses a relational database that's made up of several data tables. SQL Server 2000 is the software that is used to manage those tables.