FAA Publishes SMS Proposal

SUMMARY: The FAA has published its long-awaited proposal for Safety Management Systems. [Federal Register]

MAJOR HIGHLIGHTS: The FAA proposes to require each certificate holder operating under 14 CFR Part 121 to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS) to improve the safety of its aviation-related activities.  The proposal requires the certificate holder to go beyond the basic regulations to minimize risk.

The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 requires the FAA to conduct rulemaking to “require all Part 121 air carriers to implement a safety management system.”

The FAA also cites the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in its March 2006, amendments to Annex 6 part I, which addresses operation of airplanes in international commercial air transport, and establishes a standard for member states to mandate that each of these operators establish an SMS.  The FAA argues that the need for SMS is in fulfillment of the international agreements.  If adopted, the provisions in this rule would conform to these ICAO agreements.

The proposal clearly states that it is not the FAA's intent that this rule would result in contractors or subcontractors, or entities not directly regulated by the FAA, being required to develop an SMS. Current processes require air carriers to ensure that the employees or businesses with whom they contract to conduct training or maintenance activities on their behalf are qualified, capable, and have the necessary equipment and facilities to perform the work. This proposal would not expand these existing requirements.

Comments must be received on or before Feb. 3, 2011. 

You may send comments, identified by Docket Number FAA- 2009-0671, by using the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  http://www.regulations.gov


The Association has serious concerns regarding this proposal.  While not directly applicable to the majority of AEA member companies, this is the beginning of an SMS mandate which, in the next several years, will have a direct effect on the AEA membership. 

In this proposal the FAA is proposing a new FAR Part 5 on SMS which will be applicable through future rulemaking to all certificate holders, including Part 145 repair stations.  It is important for every AEA member to review this new Part 5 proposal and submit comments.

While this proposal may not appear to be directly applicable to your business, it is important to voice your support of the FAA’s proposal NOT to include a flow-down of SMS.  Without this provision, 14 CFR 145.205 would require a flow-down of the SMS requirements to contract maintenance providers. This proposal would not require this “flow-down” process, and this provision needs your support.

Lastly, the Association applauds the “hidden message” of this proposal.  On page 68227 of the Federal Register, the FAA indicates that critical maintenance should be accomplished only at a Part 145 certificated repair station. 

In its explanation of how SMS would benefit the industry, the FAA cites an example of a commercial airliner crash that was a result of improper maintenance procedures performed by outsourced maintenance at an uncertificated repair facility. While the utilization of an FAA certificated mechanic was in compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations, the implementation of an SMS would have caused the air carrier to “raise the bar” and, through a risk analysis, determine that maintenance performed outside of a Part 145 repair station is inherently less safe than maintenance performed under the quality system of a certificated facility.

AEA is disappointed that after coming to this conclusion, the Agency has failed to pursue rulemaking to mandate that safety sensitive maintenance (such as RII items) and specialized service items (such as RVSM, WAAS, and ADS-B) have not been restricted to certificated repair stations. 

The Association would be disappointed to learn that the Agency intends to utilize the mandated SMS program to relieve themselves of required rulemaking activities when they discover an institutional unsafe condition such as the one they use to justify this costly and burdensome SMS program.

Contact Ric Peri, AEA vice president of government and industry affairs, by email at ricp@aea.net or by phone at 202-589-1144.