NTSB Member urges GA, especially Small Operators to use SMS
Myth–it’s a burden; Truth–it’s not, saves $ and saves lives
NBAA has a Guide to make implementation easier
SMS’s #1 message- keep pushing your safety level up
Aviation Safety seeks a Sisyphean goal– striving to attain a zero accident standard for all types of operations at all times may not be attainable in an operational environment with so many unknown and/or unpredictable elements. Below is an article about NTSB Member Graham urging that GENERAL AVIATION rely on Safety Management Systems to push for that goal. This global best practice, initiated by ICAO and advocated/mandated by the FAA, systematically assesses risks, considers alternative solutions and then implements them. NTSB has also repeatedly recommended SMS for all operators.
SMS is a process. The steps needed to review the complex array of risks posed by a major airline are significantly different from a GA operation. The review by a Part 91 owner/operator frequently involves only a few planes, a small roster of pilots, manufacturer defined maintenance, a limited range of operations and a simple mission. The point is that SMS is scalable—no need for a separate organization; no major records to keep; regularly schedules meetings of the key participants should assure that the focus is maintained.
The easiest myth to address is cost and the authority is the insurance industry:
“Anything you can do to improve your proficiency as a pilot, especially relative to the aircraft you’re insured in, will factor favorably into your rates,” Merker said. “There are a lot of programs offered through the insurers themselves, or they provide preferred vendor access to upset prevention and recovery training or safety management system assistance. Attaining a higher pilot rating is also always favorable. It shows your dedication to the aircraft platform and your proficiency in flying that aircraft.”
The literature supports Mr. Merker’s recommendation:
The Business Case for Investment in Safety – A guide for executives
- Better safety culture
- Improved safety in operational environment
- Better compliance results
- Less accidents
- Less unacceptable safety incidents
- Better safety-decision making
- More safety data
- Improved safety documentation
- Better performance on inspections/audits (i.e., better interaction with oversight agencies)
- Better reputation among consumers and in media
Etc., etc., etc.
Now to the how to implement and NBAA has already developed a simple recipe book:
Member Graham’s recommendation has a clear path to reducing safety for even small GA teams. Recognizing that SMS is a constant push for safety and that the incessant striving is an important standard in and off itself reduces the Sisyphean nature of the original definition of the goal. Unabating focus on the top of the hill, metaphorically, is something all operators large and small can and must due. SMS as a process assures attention on SAFETY
by Kerry Lynch
– June 17, 2022, 11:33 AM
The aviation community must collectively work together to change the belief that safety management systems (SMS) are overly burdensome for small operators, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Michael Graham told attendees yesterday at the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) Aviation Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
Graham—the former chairman of the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) and director of flight operations safety, security, and standardization for Textron Aviation who joined the Safety Board in January 2020—,noted the agency has long pushed for SMS for Part 135 operations. The initial recommendation, A-16-36, was released in 2016 and since has been reiterated seven times.
The most recent came out of the Board meeting in May on the December 2019 AS350B2 air-tour crash in Kekaha, Hawaii. This one, however, specifically targeted small operators, calling on the FAA to “develop guidance for small operators for scaling [an SMS] that includes methods and techniques for implementation and specific examples applicable to several operational sectors, including air tours.”
Graham said he has heard from industry leaders questioning how to get small operators on board with SMS. “There is a demonstrated hesitancy among small operators who mistakenly believe that SMS is overly burdensome and not worth the investment to improve safety. We must change that perception.”
He stressed that SMS is designed to be scalable, but operators need to see how it can work for them. “You show me how to do something, I do it,” he said, saying operators should be given specific examples of what would work for them. Further, Graham added that SMSs don’t all have to look alike. At a minimum, operators must have a risk-management tool.
“I know a lot of operators out there, that don’t have an SMS, are Part 135 operators. They don’t really understand the decisions that they make and how it affects that margin of safety,” he said. “And let’s face it, decisions you make could improve your margin of safety…[or] reduce your margin of safety. And if they reduce your margin of safety, that increases the likelihood that you may have an accident. We see this over and over again.”
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