Background on Flight Standards SMS Pilot Projects

The SMS Pilot Projects (SMSPP) consists of voluntary implementation of SMS with FAA participation, guidance and mentorship, targeting SMSs developed by Aviation Service Providers. "Aviation Service Providers" is any industry organization providing aviation services, which includes certificated and non-certificated aviation organizations, aviation service providers, air carriers, airlines, maintenance repair organizations, air taxi operators, corporate flight departments, repair stations, pilot schools, and approved training organizations that are exposed to safety risks during the provision of their services.

SMS Pilot Projects were initiated in 2007 with several sizes and types of operators and other service providers working with the FAA in voluntary SMS implementation. Studies are being conducted to track and evaluate multiple data-point results (such as what is a realistic time-line for a phased implementation of an SMS, what are the most challenging and easiest areas to implement, what guidance is critical vs. just helpful, what are the pros & cons of implementing an SMS in a particular operational department first, vs. implementing across an entire company's operational sphere simultaneously, etc.). Data is being collected across the group of participants in order to better refine implementation strategies and methods for both the FAA and industry.

It is important to note that 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

There is an on-going rule-making project that is "considering" final SMS requirements. The Objectives of the SMS Pilot Projects are NOT to develop rules or regulations, which is the purview of the Aviation Rule-Making Committee (ARC), as detailed in the ARC's Charter, codified in FAA Order 1110.152.

The SMS Pilot Projects are using the following published, current developmental guidance:

Background on Flight Standards SMS Guidance

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is engaged in an SMS rulemaking effort corresponding to changes made in ICAO Annex 6 as well as FAA internal system safety objectives. The FAA Associate Administrator for Safety (AVS) issued Order VS 8000.1, Safety Management System Doctrine, in 2006.

This document provided a broad framework for SMS implementation across the National Aviation System. Order VS 8000.1 was later superseded by FAA Order 8000.369, which covers the same topics and expands the agency's commitment to safety management to cover the activities of the entire agency.

AVS also issued Order VS 8000.367, Safety Management Requirements (PDF), which provides requirements for both internal (FAA) and external (industry – for voluntarily implementation). At present, however, SMS implementation by aviation product/service providers is voluntary in the United States.

The FAA published additional guidance for voluntary implementation of SMS, in Appendix 1 to AC 120-92 (PDF). This guidance was developed after extensive review and analysis of other countries' SMS programs as well as those of third party industry organizations and the safety, quality, and environmental management standards developed by a variety of organizations such as ISO, the British Standards Institute, Standards Australia, and the International Air Transportation Association.

The FAA guidance also incorporates the requirements of Annex 6 of the conventions of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). AC 120-92 was revised to follow the structure of the ICAO SMS Framework. For further information on the ICAO Framework, see the ICAO Safety Management Manual (ICAO doc 9859). AC 120-92A (PDF) was published Aug 12, 2010, and incorporated the stand-alone "SMS Framework" document that had been used as interim guidance by Pilot Project Participants.

While the substantive content will not change, the formatting now aligns with the ICAO and Aviation Safety (AVS) level documents, so the flow from the source documents and through the tools all align for ease of mapping. This revised standards document is identified as the "Framework." In the interim, this revised document is being submitted as a formal revision change to Appendix 1 of AC 120-92, and is being used by Pilot Project Participants instead of Appendix 1.

This voluntary implementation process, therefore, provides aviation product/service providers with a means of implementing SMSs on a voluntary basis and to achieve FAA recognition for their efforts. Both ICAO and other governments that are in the process of implementing SMS requirements favor a phased implementation process. The SMS maturity model presented in the SMS Implementation Guide (PDF), closely parallels the ICAO recommended phased implementation process.