FAA should move on SMS

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ARTICLE: FAA Working (Slowly) on SMS for Airports

Aviation has a history of fear of the unknown, particularly when it comes to new regulatory “burdens”. When FOQA and even ASIAS were first introduced, the howls of anguish were heard everywhere. One of the accompanying themes was “this is another way for the FAA lawyers to find violations.” These laments are especially booming as to SMS as applied to airports.

Anyone who has read the basic manuals for SMS are overwhelmed by its demanding process and heavy involvement by all segments of the airport community. Thus another beef is added to the litany of reasons to delay this rule.

If instead one talks to the intrepid (insane?) airport managers, who have braved the SMS Armageddon, they will admit that the initial introduction is painful and involves work, but by the second iteration, after some time with SMS, the transition to addressing issues before they become PROBLEMS actually saves time. Perhaps even more telling, the 360 degree, all inclusive discipline transforms people who may have previously considered to be peripheral to the safety mission and who have been drawn into the safety team, into proactive advocates of smart, proactive actions in their daily work.

It is not mythology that the airport security director in the course of her daily rounds sees something on the airfield which has been discussed in an SMS session, and she takes the time to talk to the tug drivers to be aware of a marginally unsafe practice. SMS has transformed participants into excellent safety actors in their normal duties.

The baggage handler, who before SMS really did not understand the importance of FOD, for example, now is a vigilant hawk on the ramp. That extra set of eyes saves money and time.

The real value of SMS is in its processes. The team starts out dealing with putting out near-term fires and after several sessions begins to identify and rectify substantial problems which might have had catastrophic consequences. SMS does require time and effort. Mere lip service will never convert its activities into value. Understanding its potential and adhering to the numbers/discipline translates SMS into major returns.

The FAA should stop responding to the naysayers and follow ICAO’s lead/mandate.

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