FAA Guidance will Facilitate Attainment of Enhanced Safety with SMS Software

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ARTICLE: Program Guidance Letter 13-06 Safety Management Systems (SMS)


Taking aviation safety to the next level should not and cannot be achieved without effort by the certificate holder; the current standards and performance is already high. SMS compels deep involvement and introspection; it cannot be reached by superficial activity. The accumulation and analysis of significant amounts of information is central to SMS success. That is why those of us involved in implementing this discipline have designed software that facilitates the creation and use of a data base.

The FAA’s recent release of PGL 13-06 Safety Management Systems should be highly commended! The PGL provides excellent guidance to all certificated airports under Part 139 and extends eligibility to the 84 General Aviation airports designated “National” in the FAA’s May 2012 “ASSET” report.

The FAA clearly took into consideration the pilot airport experience with technology aided SMS programs. The record of the value of software assistant was rampant; for example:

  • The Transportation Research Board characterized data collection and management as the “backbone of any SMS program.”
  • Indianapolis Airport Authority referenced over 13,500 data points captured for SMS analysis.
  • Several SMS pilot airports recognized this and included software acquisition/deployment integrally with the development of the SMS Implementation Plan and SMS Manual.

Efficient collection and management of this much data can only be done with the aid of adequate technology. The number one factor in the labor demand of an airport’s SMS program will be selecting the right technology to collect and manage data efficiently.

The FAA goes further to require software eligibility to software that is part of a comprehensive SMS implementation. How the term “comprehensive” will be interpreted and administered by the FAA is yet to be experienced. However, by definition comprehensive is “of large scope; covering or involving much; inclusive.” SMS software can provide capability during each ICAO phase of implementation. Involving these considerations throughout implementation is a comprehensive approach to SMS Implementation in parallel with software integration.

It is reassuring to see the FAA’s demonstration of commitment to efficient SMS deployment backed by their willingness to make AIP available to fund technology. Obviously, the pilot program provided critical information to guide the FAA in continuing world leadership in safety. ICAO has shown that technology can help advance SMS; this PGL should equally help airports adopt this new discipline.

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