The Acting Administrator presents the positives of SMS and Compliance

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FAA chief defends agency’s modus operandi

Explains that new approach is smarter and safer

Sharing data creates proactive focus

Not “kinder and gentler”

For several years, the FAA’s Flight Standards organization has gradually redesigned its regulatory approach and in a series of important announcements has made it clear that the cornerstone of its future safety approach, SMS, needed a less confrontational, more cooperative approach. Administrator Huerta and Associate Administrator Gilligan, both no longer with the agency, explained the transition.

Recently, some Members of Congress and soon thereafter the Office of Inspector General, began to ask questions. Since then, there has been little explanation by the FAA about the benefits of SMS, its proactive approach to risk reduction, cooperation & collaboration with the data and the Compliance Philosophy.

Acting Administrator Elwell, at an RAA, gave a superb summation of the new program and its benefits to safety:

“’It’s not kinder and gentler, it’s smarter,’ Elwell said during a question-and-answer session at the Regional Airline Association Annual Conference here.

In April, the FAA was a target of a scathing “60 Minutes” report that accused it of being too cozy with Allegiant and too tolerant of series of Allegiant mechanical issues.

Subsequently, the DOT’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has begun a series of audits into FAA oversight. The OIG is auditing the FAA’s maintenance oversight of Allegiant, Southwest and American, and its oversight of aircraft evacuation procedures.

In July, the OIG found that the FAA lacks adequate safeguards to properly oversee and respond to complaints about flight-test programs that airlines are required to conduct on aircraft that have undergone major repairs or maintenance. As a result, the FAA has agreed to an OIG-recommended course of action designed to resolve the problem.

Responding to questions Tuesday from RAA president Faye Malarkey Black, Elwell said the agency has shifted its approach more toward achieving compliance from airlines and less toward punitive action over the course of decades.

Such a strategy, he said, has made sense, since commercial airline crashes are far less frequent than they were decades ago. As a result, the agency could no longer wait around for crashes, and then use forensic analysis to learn how safeguards needed to be enhanced.

Instead, the FAA has shifted toward being proactive in its safety oversight, he said, and that means working more closely with the airlines to get data.

‘You get data by telling airlines, ‘Tell us what happened, and we can fix it together,’ Elwell said.”


If that excellent statement was not adequately convincing, here are some addition points:

New FAA Compliance Policy a Sea Change from Enforcement—10 Forcing Elements

FAA’s new Compliance Policy will take time, but Safety will be better for the wait

FAA Legal Reorganization is an Effective Mechanism of a New Compliance Policy Now

FAA Legal Reorganization is an Effective Mechanism of a New Compliance Policy Now

FAA Safety Compliance moves from penalties to collaborative fixes of Root Causes; No/Maybe/Yes?

Flight Safety Foundation praises FAA’s & CASA’s new Safety Compliance Approach; Impact?

WSJ’s Pasztor exposes the new SMS safety concept to readers

Change, Change, Change is coming to Flight Standards, for better

Margaret Gilligan retires from FAA having laid sound foundations for a proactive, consistent & dynamic safety culture

It’s a new Flight Standards Service- here’s how the CHANGE is being managed

Individual Members of Congress seek a negative answer by asking OIG for “the whole story” of the FAA maintenance oversight- SMS and Compliance

CASA follows FAA collaboration/cooperation approach over hard enforcement

UNDER THE CBS RADAR? Compliance v. Enforcement

There are serious consequences to violating the FARs

Strong evidence that SMS/ASIAS/CAST/compliance is working

SMS is more than data, establishing a safety culture is critical to a successful implementation by airlines

Two Important News Stories on the way to the new Aviation Safety Cornerstone

A Practical Primer on how FAA staff can use COMPLIANCE for daily work

FAA bares its Enforcement Teeth in AeroBearings Revocation Order

Hopefully the Watchdog/OIG will see the value of SMS/Compliance Policy


Hopefully, the Acting Administrator’s explanation will convince Congress, the OIG and the public of the brilliance of the concept –lowering risks with a ever shrinking budget.

Change can be a challenge! Many aviation safety inspectors appear to be concerned about the transition from “audit” like review of airline records, i.e. looking at the past, VERSUS using meta data from around the world to identify risks addressing them on a proactive basis.


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