FAA Working (Slowly) on SMS for Airports

 - April 2, 2014, 12:25 AM

Never renowned for its ability to fast-track rulemaking, the FAA might be gunning for a new record.

It has been nearly a decade since the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) introduced an amendment to its aviation rulemaking to require member states to have certified international airports establish a safety management system (SMS). The FAA has said it supports harmonization of international standards and has worked to make U.S. aviation safety regulations consistent with ICAO standards and recommended practices.

ICAO issued its first SMS directive to its member nations in 2005. It required these countries to mandate SMS implementation for a number of operators, including air carriers, repair stations and international general aviation in large and jet aircraft, by Jan. 1, 2009.

Even then, knowing its own track record on rulemaking, the FAA filed “differences” with ICAO, a process by which nations can postpone implementation of some ICAO regulations. Those differences are published in the form of supplements.

According to the FAA, it intends to implement SMS at U.S. airports in a way that complements the requirements of Part 139, Certification of Airports. The FAA said it is now considering the best way to introduce an SMS requirement to the more than 540 U.S. airports certified under Part 139. The notification of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for certified airports was issued on Oct. 7, 2010. The agency accepted comments on the proposed SMS rule through July 5, 2011.

The FAA said it received “many helpful comments and insights on benefits and costs” from the public in response to the October 2010 NPRM. “The FAA carefully considered these comments, and in light of the information received, the FAA decided to modify our proposal and provide another opportunity for public comments on the modifications through our SNPRM [supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking] process,” the agency explained.

On Dec. 10, 2012, the Department of Transportation posted its monthly Significant Rulemaking Report for that month. The December 2012 report amends the next stage for the Airport Safety Management System rulemaking (Docket Number FAA-2010-0997) as a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.

While the SNPRM is currently under development, the agency anticipates offering changes to the rule’s applicability and some proposed requirements. Specifically, the FAA is evaluating several options for SMS at various classes of Part 139 certified airports to improve the implementation of SMS. The FAA is considering changes to SMS implementation and some SMS elements to reduce the burden on an airport implementing SMS.

More than 30 certified airports are already developing and implementing SMS. Safety experts worldwide view SMS as the next major step to improve safety in aviation. The FAA is encouraging all certificated airports to develop an SMS voluntarily. The FAA will continue to make Airport Improvement Program funds available to commercial airport sponsors for eligible airport SMS-related costs.