The FAA has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) following a rare Safety Summit convened by acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. These developments followed a spate of high-profile technical failures, runway incursions and other safety incidents that highlight the urgency of the agency’s mission to adapt to an ever-evolving national airspace system.
“These events are concerning [and] not what we’ve come to expect during a time of unprecedented safety in the U.S. air transportation system,” Nolen said at the March 15 event.
SAFO 23002 includes the need to ensure mutual understanding by pilots and flight attendants of sterile flight deck procedures; emphasize situational awareness during on-airport operations; and utilize voluntary reporting programs for safety concerns.
“These events are concerning [and] not what we’ve come to expect during a time of unprecedented safety in the U.S. air transportation system.”
Billy Nolen Acting FAA Administrator
In a summit panel discussion featuring industry leaders, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen emphasized the need for collaboration, communication and engagement among all stakeholders in ensuring that America continues to set the standard for aviation safety around the world.
As one example, Bolen pointed to the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) outage in early 2023 that grounded most commercial and business aircraft traffic for several hours, bringing national attention to the need to upgrade FAA systems.
“With urgency and funding, we can move forward with increased technology,” Bolen said. “I want to congratulate the FAA for focusing on how we can shorten the timeframe for making the NOTAM system more resilient.”
Bolen also emphasized the importance of safety management systems, or SMS, in bringing a data-based approach to continued safety enhancements, noting that many business aircraft operators have adopted SMS to mitigate risks and inform decision-making.
However, he also underscored the importance of ensuring that any new FAA SMS mandate is scalable to the diversity of operational types across the aviation sector, in consideration of the agency’s proposed rule requiring Part 135 certificate holders and certain other business aviation operations to implement SMS.
“A saw is a great cutting tool. A scalpel is a great cutting tool. But they’re not interchangeable,” Bolen said. “Getting the rule right and scaling it for the diversity of all operations is really important.” The SAFO further notes the need to adapt SMS programs to meet evolving industry conditions.
Following the panel, Bolen and other NBAA representatives participated in the summit’s afternoon breakout sessions on several safety topics related specifically to commercial operations, general aviation operations, the air traffic system and airport and ground operations.
“We need to be leaders, and we’re only going to be able to lead if we understand each other and work together on our common goals,” Bolen concluded. “We’ve got to be safe. We’ve got to be perceived to be safe. Collaboration is key.”
Recent aviation safety incidents, several of which have involved business aircraft, highlight the urgency of the FAA’s need to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
At a rare FAA Safety Summit held in March, NBAA’s Ed Bolen emphasized the need for all stakeholders to work together so that America continues to set the standard for aviation safety around the world.