March 30, 2023

What impact will the FAA’s proposed expansion of its safety management system (SMS) mandate have on your organization? In the latest NBAA News Hour, industry experts shared their insights into the rule’s potential implications for Part 135 certificate holders and other entities.

The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), published in January, will require all Part 135 certificate holders, certain Part 21 Type Certificate (TC) and Production Certificate (PC) holders and §91.147 air tour operators to implement an SMS.

The NPRM expands existing Part 5 SMS requirements to these organizations and already regulated entities and it also adds new mandates. These changes would become effective 24 months after publication of the final rule.

Key provisions of the proposed rule include:

  • Requiring a code of ethics, applicable to the entire organization.
  • Revising the existing requirement for a confidential employee reporting system by adding a provision to ensure that employees can report without concern of reprisal.
  • Revising the definition of “hazard” to include conditions or objects with the potential to cause or contribute to an incident.
  • Requiring regulated parties to develop, maintain and document a system description.
  • Requiring the person conducting the system analysis to consider the interfaces of the system.
  • Adding a new requirement for persons to retain records of all communications provided under new §5.94 for a minimum of 24 consecutive calendar months.

Read more about the NPRM.

The panel of experts highlighted several potential problems contained in the proposal, including lack of scalability and flexibility for the smallest operators, lack of alignment with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and failure to recognize existing systems and processes, potentially resulting in the need to revise effective processes in organizations with an active SMS.

“My biggest concern about this NPRM is that it is based on a number of invalid assumptions,” said Michael Ott, director of program operations, Phoenix Air Group, Inc. “That makes it difficult for an operator to comply with Part 5 and still have an effective SMS.”

Zohrab Grigorian, founder of Volaree Aviation Consulting, mentioned possible troubles that would be associated with the FAA’s one-size-fits-all approach to SMS. “SMS needs to be appropriate to the size and scope of the operation,” he said.

Jason Starke, director of safety & product development, Baldwin Safety & Compliance, took issue with the proposal’s apparent misalignment with ICAO standards, saying, “Part 5 has the flavor of what’s in ICAO Annex 19 Appendix 2 but there are some differences which will make it harder for people to comply.”

Ott encouraged operators not to consider SMS just a regulatory burden, sharing that Phoenix Air Group, Inc., has realized practical, tangible benefits from its SMS processes.

Overall, presenters said they hope the proposal won’t merely add a layer of bureaucracy to the detriment of improving safety through effective SMS implementation.

They encouraged all impacted entities to submit substantive comments with specific examples about their own organizations to the FAA to help affect the final rule.

NBAA is soliciting feedback on the FAA’s proposal to require all Part 135 operators, certain Part 21 certificate holders and §91.147 air tour operators to implement an SMS. Member feedback will help the association quantify the potential impact of these regulations and provide meaningful comments to the FAA before the comment period ends on April 11, 2023.

Take the NBAA survey now.

Submit NPRM comments to the FAA through the NBAA Grassroots Action Center.