FAA Mandates Safety Management Systems

Safety Management System

On January 7, the US Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new rule requiring all US commercial airlines to implement safety management systems (SMS) by 2018.

While the rule gives airlines three years to implement SMS, they must submit their plans for implementation to the FAA within six months. The rule allows for flexibility for each carrier to design an SMS to meet their needs based on their organization’s size and structure.

Airlines for America President, Nicholas Calio, spoke out in support of the rule at the same press conference where the rule was announced, adding that better data allows for better decision making. While the announcement seems like a big step forward, 96% of airlines are currently providing this data voluntarily to the FAA.

Safety management systems provide a vehicle for decision making and accident prevention. They do this by organizing data from operations surrounding risks and display trends, so that management and decision-makers can take action before an incident occurs. SMS is also an effective way to sort through complex data with reports to ensure compliance with industry rules and regulations.

The new rule does not replace any existing FAA rules and regulations, but rather helps ensure compliance with those regulations already in place. The US government and aviation industry worked together to reduce fatalities by 83% in commercial air travel from 1998 to 2008. A new target aims to further reduce fatalities by 50% from 2010 to 2025. US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, stressed that the new rule aligns with the FAA’s goal of continued passenger safety.

While implementing the rule will have significant costs (the FAA estimates $224.3 million over 10 years), there will also be benefits. Cost savings are estimated to be up to $472.3 million – more than double the expected expenditure.

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By Stacey Wagner

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