SMS Pilot Projects offer industry participants and FAA Certificate Management Teams broad experience in development of an SMS, input to developmental guidance, and an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned. Pilot Project studies are being conducted to track and evaluate multiple data-point results, addressing questions 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 and cons of implementing an SMS in a particular operational department first vs. implementing across an entire company's operational sphere simultaneously?

While FAA encourages each aviation product/service provider to develop and implement a SMS, these systems in no way substitute for regulatory compliance of other certificate requirements, where applicable.

The SMS Pilot Projects are using published guidance material. The purpose of the pilot projects is primarily to:

  • Develop implementation strategies
  • Develop oversight interfaces
  • Gain experience for the FAA and Product/Service Providers

Significant benefits by individual participants have been experienced in the form of process efficiencies, cost avoidances and enhanced safety. These benefits, as well as Lessons Learned and Best Practices are shared at the semi-annual SMS Focus Group (SMSFG) meetings, attended by Flight Standards Pilot Project participants. Another observed benefit has been an improved professional relationship between FAA Certificate Management Teams and Certificate Holders.

A significant benefit is that the SMS offers a structured, formalized way for safety decision-making. The four SMS Components all boil down to making sound, informed safety decisions and acting on them:

Policy. The SMS gives decision makers a structured framework to define objectives, assign accountability and, allocate resources.

Safety Risk Management. The SMS gives the decision maker a process to make decisions about hazards and risk by understanding their systems and operational environments, identifying hazardous conditions, and, developing and implementing risk controls.

Safety Assurance. The SMS also provides decision makers with a process to gain confidence in those risk controls by monitoring and measuring safety performance and continuously improving the level of safety performance.

Safety Promotion. SMS gives the decision maker a means of communicating clearly with the organization's personnel and ensuring that they are trained to perform their roles in the safety system.