GAO Reviews Safety Management System Implementation

 - June 30, 2014, 4:30 PM

As the aviation sector awaits the FAA’s final rule on the safety management systems (SMS) process, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has looked more closely at the status of SMS implementation, as well as at some of the key challenges the FAA and industry face in completing that implementation. The agency’s air traffic organization is currently the only FAA group that has completed the SMS implementation process, although five other agency organizations are finalizing their efforts. The agency said completing the rulemaking processes, especially developing the benefit-cost analyses required for significant regulatory action by commercial air carriers and airports, has been the primary challenge for SMS implementation. However, uncertainty about FAA plans for SMS oversight also has affected industry implementation. Since the FAA has not completed plans for its SMS oversight activities, including inspector training, industry officials said they are unable to take action until the final rule is published. “Without adequate planning of oversight and training of inspectors,” the GAO said, “the FAA could find itself unprepared to meet its oversight responsibilities when final SMS rules are published.”