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Thoughts on FAA Part 5 Safety Management System Based on NPRM

By Paul BJ Ransbury, CEO at Aviation Performance Solutions (APS)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently proposed Part 5 Safety Management System (SMS) to improve the safety of aviation operations. This FAA Part 5 SMS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for review by stakeholders, was released on Tuesday, January 10, 2023, and is intended to expand the applicability of SMS requirements beyond Part 121 operators and add new requirements for Part 135 operators, Part 91 air tour operators, and certain certificate holders under Part 21.

FAA Proposed Rule on SMS Part 5

The public comment period will be open for at least 60 days with written comments submitted within that period unless extended by the FAA.

In this post, we will discuss the likely key features of Part 5 SMS intended to shape risk mitigation strategies as well as its potential benefits for aviation safety. That said, we are aware that a range of safety organizations, industry entities, and operators have concerns about the complexity and achievable-scalability of Part 5 SMS rules for targeted aviation businesses, especially smaller ones. 

Scalability to small operators is a big deal. Case in point, the FAA’s (November 2, 2022) Part 135 aircraft listing from OpSpec D085. U.S. Department of Transportation, shows that over half of the 1,840 listed Part 135 operators operated two or less aircraft. 

Now that we’ve openly shared an awareness of known concerns, let’s take a look at the FAA’s Part 5 SMS NPRM through an optimistic lens.

Expansion of Part 5 SMS Requirements Beyond Part 121 Operators.

The expanding requirements of Part 5 Safety Management Systems (SMS) beyond Part 121 operators have generated an increasing interest in the aviation industry. The recent focus of aviation safety management on regulating SMS procedures aimed at mitigating risks, promoting communication and decision-making, and enhancing operational performance across all relevant operator sizes and categories could reduce occurrences of air accidents and increase commercial efficiency.

Organizations not only need to ensure that they comply with regulatory standards but also that they have a comprehensive understanding of the Safety Management System guidelines when creating corporate safety solutions. Note that in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), it is stated that an SMS must meet approval from the Administrator. This opens up a question of who exactly can accept the program – only the FAA or could compliance through methods such as IS-BAO also be accepted? No doubt, this is a question that needs to be addressed in the final rule.

Companies looking to navigate the complexity of organizational safety are encouraged to take a comprehensive approach through SMS implementation plans tailored to their respective scopes and sizes. Such precautionary measures can benefit businesses by decreasing liability exposure and providing the comfort shared by clients in knowing that operators are taking due diligence for the safety of those onboard their aircraft or working at their premises.

New Requirements for Part 135 Operators, § 91.147 Air Tour Operators, and Part 21 Certificate Holders

With the new requirements for Part 135 Operators, § 91.147 Air Tour Operators, and Part 21 Certificate Holders, air operators are provided with additional security measures that must be addressed for compliance.

Part 5 SMS - Plane on Runway

All Program Managers will be required to submit comprehensive manuals outlining their safety practices and procedures used to ensure safe operation. The manuals must encompass a range of topics from operational policies to training plans.

Additionally, operators are required to conduct program reviews and provide proactive risk management processes that assess their risk management framework regularly. Not only do these new measures ensure safe operations, but they also allow operators to remain compliant with Federal Aviation Administration regulations so they may continue conducting the business of aviation safely.

Benefits of Part 5 SMS for Aviation Safety

Part 5 SMS for aviation safety is a multilayered system designed to improve the way aviation organizations approach safety. Its comprehensive nature helps identify potential risks, determines the appropriate steps to be taken to reduce and eliminate those risks, and measures the results of any actions undertaken.

Managing Safety Risk

The cornerstones of Part 5 SMS are an organizational structure that encourages involvement from all levels and training that ensures personnel are equipped with the knowledge needed to handle difficult situations to be effective at managing safety risk.

By having safety risk controls in place, ideally shaped by established SMS best practices, personnel can quickly identify potential issues through a risk assessment of their environment and take decisive action in response.

Risk Mitigation Plan and Risk Mitigation Strategy Buy-In

Furthermore, a Part 5 SMS is intended to help promote an environment of trust and collaboration across departments; SMS has been generally considered beneficial at many organizations, resulting in a more efficient response to operational disruptions or issues by promoting buy-in to the company’s risk mitigation plan.  The implementation of an SMS allows organizations to measure their safety performance and set benchmarks for improvement.

Overall, Part 5 SMS is an essential tool in ensuring consistent quality management principles throughout the organization while improving flight safety along the way.

How to Implement Part 5 SMS in Your Organization

Adding a new safety measure to your organization can be daunting, but the benefits of doing so are worth the effort to accomplish risk mitigation. SMS, or Safety Management Systems, is a comprehensive approach to safety that can help reduce accidents and incidents. Here are some tips on how to implement SMS in your organization to ultimately succeed at installing safety risk controls: 

Establish a Safety Team

This team will be responsible for developing and implementing the SMS program. The team should include representatives from all parts of the organization, including management, operations, and maintenance.

Create a Safety Policy

This policy should set out the goals and objectives of the SMS program. It should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure it remains relevant.

Identify Hazards

Hazards can come from many sources, including equipment, weather, and human error. The safety team should, through established systematic procedures, identify potential hazards and develop a risk mitigation ‘plan’ to address each item through an effective risk mitigation ‘strategy’. Ineffective controls are revealed through the ‘monitor and evaluation’ process (below).

Train Employees

All employees should receive training on the SMS program and their role in safety risk management and promoting safety within the organization. This training should be ongoing and kept up-to-date with changes to the program.

Monitor and Evaluate

The safety team should constantly monitor the SMS program to identify areas of improvement. Regular evaluations should be conducted to ensure the program is effective in reducing accidents and incidents.

Final Thoughts on the Proposed Rule-Making for Part 5 SMS

The final rule-making for Part 5 SMS will only be official after the comment period and feedback from the various stakeholders is fairly and thoughtfully considered.

This proposed rule-making has been a long time coming and, despite genuine, well-founded, and understandable concerns related to simplicity and scalability, we are glad to see that the Federal Aviation Administration is taking the time to ensure that all voices are heard.

At the end of the day, we sincerely hope this rule-making will have a positive impact on safety and we look forward to seeing it enacted in its final form.

APS – Risk Mitigation Strategies to Overcome Loss of Control In-flight, Every Pilot’s Top Fatal Threat on Every Flight

Aviation Performance Solutions (APS) is the industry leader in providing turnkey methods of risk management that directly address Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I), aviation’s most fatal and costly threat to air safety.

With over 25 years of experience, APS has developed and implemented highly effective risk management programs for Part 121, Part 135, and Part 91 operators. With our proven track record in reducing loss of control incidents and improving overall safety performance, let APS be your partner in managing aviation risks.

Can We Help?

If your organization is looking for a comprehensive approach to mitigating LOC-I, contact APS today and see how we can help you take control of your most severe fatal risk.

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