External SMS Efforts – Part 139 Rulemaking – Airport SMS Pilot Studies


The FAA has adopted the principles of Safety Management Systems (SMS) for aviation service providers, and the agency’s Airports organization is working to develop SMS guidance for airports. As part of this effort, we initiated pilot studies to help us determine the appropriate scope and detail of that guidance. The pilot studies encouraged and assisted airports in developing an SMS and allowed them to share their experiences and SMS practices with other airports and FAA.


Airports participating in the pilot study were eligible for AIP planning grants to cover the cost of developing an initial SMS plan. Airports, however, did not need to apply for a grant to participate.

First Pilot Study

Under the first Airport SMS Pilot Study, we selected 26 airports to participate, 20 of which received AIP grants to develop their SMS Manual and implementation plan. Airports participating in the study were required to follow a Statement of Work and Pilot Study Participant Guide, which detailed the deliverables and time frames for the study.

Second Pilot Study

In July 2008, we began a second SMS Pilot Study to gather information on scalability and how smaller airports might implement SMS. We are no longer accepting letters of interest from potential participants.

Implementation Study

In December 2009, FAA announced its plans to conduct a Part 139 SMS Implementation Study. The study examined how airports implement the elements of the 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 airport expressed interest in participating. We are on longer accepting letters of interest from potential participants.

Pilot Study Documents


Last updated: Friday, March 29, 2024