The FAA has adopted the principles of Safety Management Systems (SMS) for aviation service providers, and the agency's Airports and Aviation Safety organizations are each working to develop SMS guidance for their respective service providers. As part of this effort, we've initiated pilot studies to help us determine the appropriate scope and detail of that guidance. The pilot projects will encourage and assist service providers in developing an SMS and allow them to share their experiences and SMS practices with their peers and the FAA.

Aviation Safety Pilot Projects

Flight Standards Voluntary SMS Pilot Projects

The Flight Standards organization is conducting voluntary SMS Pilot Projects for external SMSs, specifically for Operators & Product/Service Providers. Numerous voluntary pilot project participants (approximately 130, as of April, 2011) have realized substantial safety and financial benefits through their development of a voluntary SMS.

The Objectives of the SMS Pilot Projects are primarily three things:

  1. Develop implementation strategies
  2. Develop oversight interfaces, and
  3. Gain experience for FAA and Service Providers

The SMS Focus Group (SMSFG) is a Voluntary Implementation Users Group that provides a two-way communication mechanism between the SMS Program Office and participants in voluntary implementation. It also provides a forum for knowledge sharing among participants. SMSFG Meetings are conducted semi-annually, and offer a forum for Pilot Project Participants to share Best Practices and Lessons Learned with each other and the FAA SMS Program Office. Contact the Flight Standards SMS Program Office to participate in Pilot Projects. (Additional background information)

Aircraft Certification SMS Pilot Projects

The Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) launched a Safety Management System (SMS) pilot program for design and manufacturing (D&M) organizations, called Manufacturers Safety Management System (MSMS) in January, 2011. During the pilot, led by the Aircraft Engineering Division's Safety Management Design and Analysis Branch (AIR-150), the FAA participated with industry to build an enhanced management system for safety using system safety principles. The FAA oversaw the implementation of MSMS at selected design and production approval holder organizations to establish the structure and expectations for implementation of D&M SMS. Specifically, AIR wanted to understand, through firsthand experience, how SMS can be applied to a diverse, but representative, set of D&M organizations to achieve full safety benefits and best use of oversight and industry resources. (See the SMS Pilot Projects Guidance section for more information.)

The MSMS pilot project culminated in December, 2012. Information, results, and lessons learned from the pilot project were captured via the MSMS Team's final deliverable to AIR-150, its Team Report available here: MSMS Team Report.

Airport SMS Pilot Studies

FAA Airports initiated a number of airport SMS pilot studies to evaluate the development and implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS) at airports of varying size and complexity. The pilot studies also allowed airports and the FAA to gain experience establishing airport-specific SMSs that are tailored for the individual airport.

More than twenty airports participated in the first round of the pilot studies, which were initiated in April 2007. FAA published a PowerPoint presentation summarizing the findings of the first round in October, 2008. In July 2008, FAA Airports initiated a second round with nine airports to focus on the development of SMS in our nation's smaller certificated airports. FAA concluded the second round of studies and issued a final report on the combined pilot study findings.

In December 2009, FAA Airport initiated a Part 139 SMS Implementation Study to examine how airports implement Safety Risk Management and Safety Assurance components throughout their airfield environment. Eligibility for the study was limited to airports that participated in the first or second studies. Fourteen airports participated. The FAA is no longer accepting letters of interest from potential participants.

The following link provides more information and study documentation: Airport SMS Pilot Studies.