NATA Concerned with Proposed Airport SMS Plan

 - June 25, 2011, 3:40 AM

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has formally responded to the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would create a requirement for all commercially served airports as well as some serving large on-demand charter aircraft to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS). The plan proposed in the rulemaking would extend to aircraft movement and non-movement areas on the airside of the airports, including ramp space leased by FBOs, flight schools and maintenance facilities. Under the plan, airport authorities would be required to assume responsibility for safety on these tenant ramps, which according to the FAA would cover “issues including employee safety, ground vehicle safety and passenger safety to the extent they are related to aircraft operations.”

In its comments, NATA expressed concern that the SMS could grant airports–and by extension the FAA–greater authority over the operations of airport tenants. While NATA said it “is supportive of the adoption of SMS programs in general,” the association expressed concern about the impact this proposal could have. “What it would do basically is move control of the operation from a safety standpoint from the business to the airport,” said Mike France, NATA’s director of regulatory affairs. “The airport always has safety oversight, but to make it the one solely responsible for the decision is probably not the right direction to go.” NATA requested that the “rulemaking be modified to exempt from the airport’s SMS oversight areas exclusively leased for use to tenant businesses.”