NATA To Seek Comment Extension on SMS Proposal

 - January 17, 2023, 12:09 PM
While the industry is embracing the release of the proposal expanding SMS to Part 135, air tours, and manufacture, it is weighing the effects on small operators. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) is eyeing a request for an extension of the comment period on the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to extend safety management system (SMS) mandates to on-demand and air tour operations, as well as manufacturers. Published in the Federal Register on January 11, the much-anticipated proposal is open for comment through March 13.

Mandated by Congress, the proposal would require on-demand operations, commercial air tour operators, production certificate holders that are holders or licensees of a type certificate (TC) for the same product, and holders of a TC who license out that TC for production to comply with the SMS requirements under Part 5. These requirements have been in place for airlines since 2018. Notably absent from the proposal are Part 145 repair stations.

Part 135 and 91.147 operators would have two years to submit a statement of compliance while production certificate holders must submit a plan by Dec. 27, 2024, and have it in place by Dec. 27, 2025.

Additionally, the proposal would update Part 5 with a requirement for the inclusion of a code of ethics within a company’s safety policy, further employee protections, an expanded definition of hazard, and other record-keeping and reporting directives. Changes to the rule would more closely align Part 5 with International Civil Aviation Organization SMS standards, the FAA said.

The industry has largely supported SMS but has been cautious about the simple application of Part 5, which was developed for airlines, to smaller operators and entities. NATA in early 2021 conducted a pilot project to see how Part 5 could apply to small operators.

Alan Stephens, v-p of regulatory affairs for NATA, said the association wanted to make sure it had an opportunity to hear feedback from its smaller operators as it crafted its comments. Other associations are evaluating the proposal as well while emphasizing their support for SMS.

“The [Air Charter Safety Foundation] is very pleased to see that the SMS NPRM is being issued,” said ACSF president Bryan Burns. Noting ACSF has long advocated voluntary adoption of SMS, he added, its leadership is “already reviewing the proposed rulemaking to ensure that it addresses the variety, complexity, and size of many of our member companies as they pursue a pathway to compliance.”

General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce noted his association’s participation in the SMS Aviation Rulemaking Committee and work toward voluntary adoption by manufacturers. “We strongly endorse appropriate implementation of SMS standards and look forward to reviewing and commenting on the FAA’s proposed SMS rule,” Bunce said.