External SMS Efforts – Part 139 Rulemaking


In November 2005, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) amended Annex 14, Volume I (Aerodrome Design and Operations) to require member states to have certificated international airports establish an SMS.

The FAA supports harmonization of international standards and has worked to make U.S. aviation safety regulations consistent with ICAO standards and recommended practices. We intend to implement SMS at U.S. airports in a way that complements the requirements of 14 CFR Part 139, Certification of Airports.


We are now considering the best way to introduce an SMS requirement to the more than 540 U.S. airports certificated under Part 139. The Safety Management System for Certificated Airports Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was issued on October 7, 2010. The FAA accepted comments on the proposed SMS rule through July 5, 2011.The FAA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) on July 14, 2016, and will accept comments until September 12, 2016.

Before issuing a final SMS rule, we will consider –

  • All public and industry comments
  • The experiences of airports that have already implemented an SMS
  • The benefits and costs of the rule so we can tailor it to impose the minimum burden and costs needed for an effective program
  • Whether the requirement should apply to all certificated airports or only to airports above a certain activity level
  • For airports subject to an SMS requirement, how various elements of SMS might apply to airports of different sizes and resources
  • Existing Part 139 requirements so we can avoid duplication
  • The level of FAA oversight needed for individual SMS plans
  • SMS training needs for FAA employees and airport operators and staff

Actions Taken to Date

We have already taken a number of actions to help us introduce SMS to U.S. airports, including developing an SMS advisory circular, sponsoring the development of additional guidance, and initiating SMS Pilot Studies.

Advisory Circular

Airport Improvement Program (AIP)

While the FAA continues its rulemaking effort, the agency encourages voluntary implementation at certificated and non-certificated airports. Airports that have voluntarily implemented SMS have experienced a variety of benefits including decreased incident rates and enhanced communications.

Because safety is the highest priority of the FAA, it has been determined that certain airport sponsors are eligible to use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to develop their SMS Manual and Implementation Plan. Airport sponsors receiving AIP funds to develop their SMS Manual and Implementation Plan must include these minimum requirements. These requirements are subject to change either through future updates of this page, associated Advisory Circulars, or regulatory action.

"System-Wide" or Integrated SMS

Airport sponsors owning multiple airports (including those certificated under Part 139 and Nonprimary airport classified as “National” in FAA’s May 2012 “ASSET” report may want flexibility in maintaining SMS documentation including the SMS Manual and Implementation Plan. By implementing a system-wide SMS and maintaining an SMS Manual for the entire system (or a part of the system) instead of individual SMS Manuals for each airport, airports that share maintenance/operations procedures or staff could realize significant cost savings from economies of scale.

Unlike the SMS Manual, one SMS Implementation Plan for all airports may not be feasible because plans should be scaled to the size and complexity of each airport’s operations. However, implementation plans may be grouped by airports of similar size and operations or based on a specified management structure. For example, an airport sponsor that owns a large hub airport, a small hub airport, and a National airport may find it helpful to have two implementation plans; one for the hubs and one for the National airport or one for the large hub and one for the small hub and National airports. Or in the case of an airport sponsor who has separate management districts which oversee a group of airports, the sponsor may find it more feasible to establish implementation plans for each management district.

Sponsors using a system-wide approach should assess current policies, programs, and infrastructure to determine what can be used to implement and operate the SMS. The published AIP guidance limits software or reporting system acquisition to a single system per airport sponsor; however a sponsor may find that software is not necessary. Hazard reporting and tracking, data collection, and safety risk assessment processes may be shared across the multiple airports for cost savings. Sharing these processes across multiple airports also provides management a more systemic-approach to safety management where lessons learned from one airport could be applied to the others.

The required elements referenced above are also required for AIP-funded system-wide SMS approaches. However, the SMS Manual and SMS Implementation Plans must be clear on how they apply to each of the individual airports. For example, if the airport sponsor establishes a shared hazard reporting system for all its airports, the SMS Manual would explain how to make reports, who reviews the reports, and how to give feedback to reporters at the applicable airport. The SMS Implementation Plans would detail how the airport sponsor plans to deploy the shared hazard reporting system from both a system-wide and individual airport perspective.

Type of Question Contact
Eligibility and grant application questions Local FAA Airports field office
Technical questions about minimum SMS requirements for AIP-funded projects James Schroeder
Question about SMS Requirements for AIP-funded Projects

Airport SMS Pilot Studies

Airport SMS Pilot Studies

Additional Guidance on SMS at Airports

If a regulation on SMS is adopted, FAA will

Last updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2022