AEA Objects to Segments of FAA's SMS Proposal;
Supports incident management, risk-based analysis concepts

SUMMARY: In comments to the FAA on March 7, 2011, regarding its proposal to mandate Safety Management Systems (SMS) for air carriers, the Association objected to the proposal as written while supporting the general concept of incident management and using a risk-based analysis for strategic regulatory decisions.

Key components of the Association’s comments included:

SMS and labor agreements are not compatible. The accidents and incidents cited in the NPRM suggest that there are inherent risks in the negotiated labor agreements within the airlines. The Association points out that if negotiated labor agreements take precedence over proper risk assessment and mitigation strategies, SMS had failed before it begins.

The regulation as proposed is undefined. The proposal defines Hazard as “a condition that can lead to injury, illness or death to people; damage to or loss of a system, equipment, or property; or damage to the environment.” ICAO binds their definition of hazard within the criterion of Annex 6; safe operations of aircraft. By establishing an independent new Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 5, the FAA has chosen to be vague and misleading in its scope of aviation hazards which will lead to misinterpretation and over-regulating.

International harmonization. The Association is disappointed with the Agency for this misleading representation of the “independent” ICAO mandate. The Agency’s portrayal of this mandate as if it is completely governed by an independent international body (ICAO) is false and misleading to the American public and should be thoroughly reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

SMS proposal as written will lead to differing interpretations. There is no way to objectively enforce this rule. The proposal mandates a Safety Management System; however, it does not define the safety goal that SMS is intended to achieve. As defined in the ICAO Annex 6 criteria, SMS is a path to enhance the overall industry system safety mandate. The FAA’s proposal does not assume this logical approach to SMS, but rather the Agency proposes and markets SMS as a product in and of itself.

Click here to view AEA's submitted comments

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