Not Best Aviation Advice on SMS

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NBAA doubts SMS for Part 135

Long list of Supporters of this addition

SMS is not prescriptive nor transition disruptive

NBAA has submitted comments to the FAA Docket on mandating SMS for Part 135 operators. The association prefers theexisting safety cultures, scalability and oversight”, presumably the Part 135s that are already voluntarily adopting the system. This heightened awareness may be driven by the NTSB’s most recent Most Wanted List.

NTSB stats on P135 and SMS

Safety Management System is the single most beneficial tool added to the aviation industry as recognized by the Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor. Add to the endorsement of that extremely well regarded aviation journalist this litany of the world’s preeminent air safety organizations:

  • The ILO credited with introducing the current form of SMS in 2009 (ISM Code, which was made mandatory in 1998 and further revised in 2000).
  • ICAO issued standards for its Members to implement the discipline.
  • The FAA adopted SMS as a standard for all operations within its jurisdiction and a timetable for adoption for each segment.
  • The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) began the process of implementing Safety Management System (SMS) regulations by issuing Terms of Reference (TOR) on July 18, 2011
  • Flight Safety Foundation President and CEO William R. Voss testified before Congress in 2007 that SMS was the global aviation safety standard.
  • The Air Charter Safety Foundation, dedicated to advancement of the highest safety standards available to allow the business, charter and fractional ownership industry, has endorsed the NTSB MWL recommendation to apply SMS to Part 135.

ACSF logo

SMS is not a regulation designed to issue prescriptive regulations. It is a process that involves the FAA and the certificate holder’s safety team (more that the obvious pilots, mechanics, etc. to include all managers with input on flight issues—personnel, purchasing, etc.)[1]. The system requires all working together collaboratively to identify and rank risks, to design the most effective means of addressing those exposures and to implementation approach. Far from prescriptive, SMS results in individuated solutions. While this innovative safety process is known for its data accumulationcollaborative and cooperative approach and its emphasis on being proactive, over time the accumulated  SMS-designed solutions are establishing an airline-specific set of operating parameters. This possible future record of individual standards reflects a long held view by many regulators that the design of the regulatory structure should reflect the specifics of the operator.



Transition from voluntary to mandatory SMS should not be challenging. The POI/PMIs have been aware of the elective actions taken by the carrier. The process assures that adopted remedial actions should not be reversed.

The application of SMS to Part 135 should be no shock. NTSB and FAA have been warning of its coming for years. The transition should be seamless.

NTSB 19-20 MWL



NBAA Concerned About Upcoming SMS Regulations for Part 135 Operators

Brian Koester NBAA


April 13, 2021

In a recent letter to the FAA, NBAA voiced its concerns about a rulemaking effort underway that would require Part 135 operators to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS), saying it could be disruptive to existing safety measures already in place.

NBAA’s Part 135 Issues Subcommittee of the Domestic Operations Committee drafted the letter to proactively communicate support for SMS overall, and explain concerns with how the rule might impact some operations.

“Part 5 of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines the basic components of a complete safety management system and the regulatory requirements for acceptance,” the letter states. “NBAA supports the core framework of SMS for business aviation operators; however, we remain concerned with support for existing safety cultures, scalability and oversight.”

“The subcommittee’s core concern is that new regulatory requirements will actually disrupt existing positive safety cultures,Michael McCullough ARM said Michael McCullough[2] of Aviation Resource Management, Inc.Many Part 135 companies are already operating with an SMS. If regulations are too prescriptive, they won’t be scalable and won’t be tailored to a specific organization.”

Further, McCullough explained a good SMS encompasses all personnel in an organization. Obviously, some departments – for example, accounting functions – are not under FAA jurisdiction. This leads to obvious questions about how the FAA oversees SMS processes in departments outside of the agency’s scope.

Operators also expressed concerns for privacy and confidentiality, insisting the FAA have appropriate protections in place to ensure safety data is used in meaningful ways to improve safety and not to seek retribution or punishment.

“Over the last two decades, the Part 135 community has created and implemented many SMS best practices that are currently integrated into each company’s culture,” the letter continues. “A mechanism to verify an operator’s existing program would be part of an ideal solution, especially if the program has already been audited under IS-BAO [International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations] or a similar standard. Lastly, oversight should be sensitive to the breadth and impact of robust SMS programs.”

An Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), completed more than a decade ago, highlighted some of these same concerns regarding SMS for smaller businesses.

We hope the FAA will open a dialogue about these and other concerns with the industry prior to issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” said Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations. While the previous SMS ARC identified scalability, privacy and confidentiality, and flexibility as areas of concern, working with the industry in a new rulemaking effort would go along way to community acceptance of a new SMS mandate.”

[1] The notion that the FAA’s jurisdiction may not reach these people outside of the certificate ignores that SMS is NOT designed to be an enforcement tool. To the contrary, in an effort to reduce risks by admitting mistakes, its approach is compliance not enforcement.

[2] A recipient of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) the 2012 Donald A. Baldwin Sr. Business Aviation Management Scholarship, NBAA Announces Recipients of 2012 Baldwin Business Aviation Management Scholarship | NBAA – National Business Aviation Association

nbaa to faa letter


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