Office of Airports Safety Management System Efforts

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking a two-prong approach to enhance safety internally and at the nation’s airports using the Safety Management System (SMS) concept.

First, the FAA is proposing to require SMS for airports it regulates under Part 139 – generally, the nation’s largest airports. This is known as the external SMS. The FAA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on October 7, 2010. The FAA received many helpful comments and decided to modify its original proposal and provide another opportunity for public comment. So, the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) will be published on July 14, 2016.  The FAA will accept comments through September 12, 2016 at 

Second, the FAA is implementing SMS throughout the Office of Airports organization, including risk management for airport planning and development-related federal actions.  These actions include development of airports standards, approval of Airport Layout Plans, review of construction safety plans, and review of other airfield and operational changes that could affect safe airport operations. This effort is known as internal SMS.

What is a Safety Management System?
SMS provides a management system for integrating safety activities into normal day-to-day business practices. It is a formal, systematic approach to identify hazards and control risks. SMS includes four components – safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. SMS helps enhance safety by facilitating the development of an organization-wide safety policy and implementing methods to proactively identify and mitigate hazards.

What is the FAA proposing in the SNPRM?
Rather than requiring an SMS at all Part 139 airports as originally proposed, the FAA now proposes to require SMS at any certificated airport (1) classified as a small, medium, or large hub airport in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems; (2) identified by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as a port of entry, designated international airport, landing rights airport, or user fee airport; or (3) identified as having more than 100,000 total annual operations. This alternative applicability would maximize safety benefits in the least burdensome manner and harmonizes with international standards.  This represents the most significant change to the original proposal and airports are encouraged to review and comment on the SNPRM. 

Why implement an internal SMS for the Office of Airports?
The Office of Airports works closely with airport sponsors on airport planning and development. Although airport sponsors are ultimately responsible for operating and developing a safe and efficient airfield, the FAA provides funding, approves project proposals, and requires that airports follow FAA standards. The Office of Airports must work together with the airports to ensure that system-wide safety is achieved. Therefore, the office must apply sound SMS principals to its airport planning and development decisions.  

What are the Office of Airports SMS requirements?
Since June 2011, FAA Airports employees have used the formal safety risk management (SRM) component of SMS for the safety analysis supporting decisions on airport planning, development, and standards proposals. The goal is to identify potential hazards at the earliest possible stage to prevent safety-related problems from surfacing during the implementation phase. This includes applying SRM to the review of Airport Layout Plans, construction safety and phasing plans, proposed modifications of standards, non-construction airport changes, Part 150 noise compatibility proposals that impact aircraft operations; and new and revised FAA airport standards.  

Will the Office of Airports SMS impact its Industry Partners?
Airport sponsors will be required to provide the FAA with information needed for SRM activities.  As they do today, this information will support the FAA review and approval of airport planning and development proposals. In addition, the FAA’s other internal Air Traffic and Aviation Safety organizations will also assist with safety data and analysis to support the SRM assessment.

How will the internal and external SMS components mesh?
If the FAA adopts a Part 139 SMS final rule, there would be instances where an SRM assessment to identify and mitigate potential hazards may be required for internal and external SMS. In such cases, the FAA and the airport sponsor would work together to conduct an assessment and avoid duplicating efforts.

Additional Information on SMS:

Safety Management Systems for Airports
Safety Management System

To view and make comments on the SNPRM, Safety Management Systems for Certificated Airports, go using docket #FAA-2010-0997.