In this article, we’ll cover the essentials you need to know about the FAA’s new ruling on Airport Safety Management Systems and outline how AIRDAT can help ensure your airport meets the new regulations, and improve airside safety compliance.

Statistically, aviation is the safest form of long-distance travel and that is no small part down to the dedication of aviation stakeholders. But, a single fatal incident is one too many and following lengthy explorations, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have mandated the implementation of Safety Management Systems at certificated US airports. The ruling covers airports with the highest passenger enplanements, the largest total operations, and those hosting international air traffic. The new ruling centres safety at the heart of all airport operations and switches from, what has often been a reactive approach, to a thoroughly proactive approach to airport safety.

What is the FAA’s ruling on Airport Safety Management Systems?

Whilst familiar to airports worldwide, SMS, standing for Safety Management System, is now being mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The new formalised approach guarantees that all aviation organisations are required by law to meet a set of criteria to ensure uniformity of safety. 

Why is the new SMS ruling so important?

The FAA’s ruling heralds the next stage of aviation safety evolution in the US. The new regulations ensure a pre-emptive approach to safety at an organisational level with risk management and enhanced communication forming the basis of safety measures.

When will the FAA’s new ruling come into effect?

The new FAA ruling is effective from 23 April 2023. The timelines for submitting SMS implementation plans depend upon the size and type of airport operation. Large, medium, and small hubs have 12 months to submit their SMS implementation plan, while airports with 100,000+ average annual operations and international airports have 18 months and 24 months respectively. With full implementation of the new SMS systems and policies in place within 4-5 years of the effective date.

At a glance: the four components of a Safety Management System

The system comprises four overarching components: safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion. Each of the four pillars are designed to promote safety at an organisational level. Let’s delve a little deeper…

1. Safety Policy

The safety policy pillar establishes a requirement on the part of senior stakeholders and management teams to continually improve safety within aviation. Processes, methods and structures are formalised to ensure aviation companies are best placed to meet all safety goals. It works by:

  • Establishing commitment to safety from senior stakeholders
  • Establishing clear objectives to manage this
  • Defining and unifying methods, processes and structures needed to meet safety goals
  • Establishing transparency and ensuring all safety management processes are fully and adequately documented

Find out how elearning can ensure your safety processes reach the right people in the airside community.

2. Safety Risk Management

The process of assessing risk is formalised and unified within the new SMS. The system outlines a need for revised risk controls with set regulations on:

  • Describing risk
  • Identifying hazards
  • Assessing, analysing and controlling risk

Learn more on how to provide stakeholders with your airport specific risk assessment forms – highlighting the risk and hazards found not only at all airports but your airport specific hotspots.

3. Safety Assurance

The Safety Assurance component is designed to continually evaluate the effectiveness of risk measures and support the identification of new hazards. It works by:

  • Providing insight and analysis to minimise risk and improve safety
  • Standardising policies and directives relating to employee reporting, audits and evaluations
  • Ensuring compliance with data analysis and system assessments

Discover how live customisable dashboards and heatmaps can help you monitor safety and keep abreast of your airport’s latest safety issues.

4. Safety Promotion

Last but by no means least is the Safety Promotion classification. This segment is dedicated to creating a positive, safety-first culture amongst all aviation staff and stakeholders. Everyone has a role in creating the safest possible environment and formal requirements will be in place for:

  • SMS training
  • Communication and awareness
  • Sharing safety lessons learned with the entire aviation community
  • Promoting a positive safety culture

Learn how you can create a positive work culture by rewarding compliance through point credits and reporting on non-compliance instances.

How does an airport Safety Management System improve upon previous safety methods?

Traditionally, safety management procedures have been reactive, responding to incidents as and when they occur. The new SMS requirements place the emphasis firmly on prevention and early identification. By continually collecting and sharing data, airport authorities and stakeholders gain a more holistic understanding of potential safety hazards. A culture of transparency will be implemented and all staff and stakeholders are required to report safety concerns or incidents. The model will also shift and evolve as time goes on, there’s an emphasis on continuous improvement which future-proofs the system.

How can aviation stakeholders comply with the FAA’s new ruling?

Whether you’re a member of an airport C-suite, an airline, or an aviation maintenance partner, you’ll be required to comply with the new regulations. Ensure you understand exactly what’s required of you by reviewing the SMS guidelines and consider implementing some or all of the following:

  • Appoint an SMS champion to oversee and implement changes
  • Establish a transparent reporting process and roll out to all staff
  • Foster a culture of proactive safety
  • Create a safety management plan
  • Ensure all permits for external companies are recorded and updated
  • Regularly review and update staff training records

How AIRDAT’s Passport System can simplify the FAA’s new SMS regulations for stakeholders and improve airside safety by upto 4.5 times.

If the process above looks time consuming and labour intensive then choosing to work with an aviation partner like AIRDAT will streamline and simplify the process. Trusted worldwide to manage airport stakeholder SMS, our Airport Safety Systems work in conjunction with your unique airport processes and bring all data together in one, easy-to-access, cloud-based location.

Our Passport Airport Safety System allows you to take control of all airport community training schemes. Not only do we offer bespoke onsite, web-based and e-learning training systems, we also record all training and compliance data and make it easily accessible at the touch of a button – invaluable for compliance purposes. Stakeholders can book training, view reports and receive compliance alerts if a staff member’s permit is due for renewal.

Our Onboard Airport Compliance System is designed to ensure that companies operating at your airport meet the standards required. As processes change, in line with the FAA’s new SMS regulations, the flexible Onboard system can change accordingly to suit your needs. It offers accurate, real-time data and can consolidate and upgrade existing legacy systems to ensure they meet new requirements. Onboard also has an inbuilt risk assessment tool that establishes a transparent reporting process that can be made available to all staff and contractors.

Our Visa Airside Safety App makes accessing permits, training records, penalties and more, simple and intuitive. Available on mobile devices, stakeholders can access important safety and compliance data even on the go.

At AIRDAT, we believe there’s always a better way to do things. Each of our systems are fully flexible and future-proofed and we’re well-versed in aviation safety. What’s more, it’s built into our company culture to offer support to you and your organisation. If you’re struggling to come to terms with the latest rules and regulations, let us help.

Get in touch with the AIRDAT team to discuss your requirements today.

The final word

The FAA’s ruling instigates a step change in aviation safety and stakeholders must learn to comply or risk being left behind. A structured, data-driven approach to safety is coming which could revolutionise aviation safety. Ensure that you understand and follow the key components and let’s work together to create a more proactive approach to safety for passengers, staff and stakeholders alike.