SMS is not rigid, the policy is flexible, but help may be needed at the local level

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NBAA says SMS is coming, but it’s not scalable

Text of 14 CFR Part 5 and AC 121.92B stress flexibility

The issue may be at local level and experienced, knowledgeable help is available 

NBAA has repeatedly warned its members that SMS is coming for over a decade and acknowledging throughout the safety value to all operators:

An SMS Mandate Is Coming

The Value of Data Sharing

NBAA Concerned About Upcoming SMS Regulations for Part 135 Operators

Safety Webinar Addresses Risks of SMS Complacency

SMS for One-Aircraft Operators

Safety Management System (SMS) Overview

Video: The Value of Creating a Safety Culture

Is SMS Worthwhile? Study Explores the Question

SMS and Your Bottom Line

SMS and Your Flight Operations – A Status Report

Doug Carr, an incredibly knowledgeable aviation safety expert, is quoted (below) as saying:

“Current FAA SMS tools just don’t fit the broader aviation community,” said Carr. “FAR Part 5 and the FAA’s Voluntary SMS program (SMS VP) absolutely won’t work for small operators. We need a smarter solution that gives industry a stake in developing effective, scalable SMS programs.

“Any new SMS mandate for these operators and repair stations needs to be a scalable solution for everyone, from a single-aircraft, single-pilot operation delivering mail in Alaska to a large fleet with international operations or an off-airport single-person repair station,” he added.

Perhaps, NBAA’s senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international operations has learned from his Members who have encountered inflexible, stubborn FSDO inspectors who insist that the business operator’s SMS proposal must meet some pre-conceived regulatory matrix. The FAA has had a history of organizational  cognitive dissonance between the policy makers in Washington and those who have the job to “grade the applications.

individuation

The words, both the CFR and AC-120-92B texts, make it clear that the design of an SMS is intended to be flexible. The track of Part 121 SMS documentation shows that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, the Part 5 record is one of individuation and in which  the specific policies, paperwork and procedures are crafted to the specific strengths and weaknesses of the certificate holder.

The words are CLEAR:

 

14 cfr part 5

 

AC 120-92B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBAA’s statements consistently over the decade have made it clear that the benefits of this safety discipline have great value. The headaches caused by a FSDO should not deter your implementation of SMS. There are SMEs

  • who have successfully obtained approvals from a number of FSDOs,
  • who have created SMS programs that accomplish the Part 5 goals while working for your organization,
  • who have the experience and reputation to work effectively with your inspector,
  • who do not just hand you pre-existing manuals, but rather learn what your specific operational strengths and weaknesses are, design the SMS programs to those specifics, who train your team in your processes, policies and paperwork, and
  • most importantly, assure that all within your organization (Board down to the line, not just the safety professionals, but all disciplines (human resources, procurement, real estate, finance, accounting and law) are inculcated in this critical Safety Culture.

NBAA SMS range


 

NBAA SMS Mandate

An SMS Mandate Is Coming

May/June 2021

nbaa airfoil

 

If you have not already implemented a safety system, it’s time to think about doing so.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson says a proposal that would mandate safety management systems (SMS) will be coming soon for Part 135 and Part 145 certificate holders, as well as certain air tour operators. What might that regulation look like, and how can charter operators, repair stations and other affected entities prepare for this new requirement?

The FAA established the SMS requirements for Part 121 operators (14 CFR Part 5 ) in 2015. The regulation allowed just over three years for the airlines to develop and implement acceptable SMS programs. Will Part 5’s applicability statement simply be modified to include Parts 135 and 145, as well as air tour operators, or will the regulatory change be more encompassing?

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Doug Carr

Doug Carr, NBAA’s senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international operations, says Part 5 is not the right answer for many Part 135 or 145 certificate holders.

“Current FAA SMS tools just don’t fit the broader aviation community,” said Carr. “FAR Part 5 and the FAA’s Voluntary SMS program (SMS VP) absolutely won’t work for small operators. We need a smarter solution that gives industry a stake in developing effective, scalable SMS programs.

“Any new SMS mandate for these operators and repair stations needs to be a scalable solution for everyone, from a single-aircraft, single-pilot operation delivering mail in Alaska to a large fleet with international operations or an off-airport single-person repair station,” he added.

Carr is urging the FAA to talk with the industry before publishing a proposed rule to ensure that the agency fully understands the current operational climate and properly considers the breadth of the industry.

“If the FAA is using ideas that were discussed over 10 years ago as a basis for this current effort, I fear we’ll end up with a proposal that we’ll have to fight rather than support,” Carr explained, referring to the 2020 Pilot Records Database final rule based on industry recommendations from 2009. “Part 5 isn’t scalable. More importantly, it doesn’t recognize the diversity of the industry. It simply can’t work en masse.”

“Basic concepts of SMS are positive improvements to safety culture, even if they’re scaled to different operators.”

STEVE DICKSON FAA AdministratorAdministrator Dickson

FAA Viewpoint

Nevertheless, regulators and industry stakeholders alike recognize the value of SMS, and Dickson has commended NBAA members for adopting such voluntary programs and participating in safety data gathering initiatives.

At a recent NBAA Town Hall, the FAA administrator specifically addressed the upcoming SMS mandate, seeming to recognize the need for scalability when applying SMS requirements to business aviation. He also said there will be opportunity for dialogue with industry as the FAA shapes the rule.

“Basic concepts of SMS are positive improvements to safety culture, even if they’re scaled to different operators,” said Dickson.

Dickson also said that any SMS must be a living document. He pointed to a 2020 Sikorsky S-76B accident, which the NTSB recently determined was caused by VFR flight into IMC, spatial disorientation and loss of control. The operator involved had an SMS in place, but it “wasn’t a way of life” and wasn’t “ingrained” in the safety culture. According to Dickson, one former employee called the SMS “window dressing.”

“Open your mind to the concepts of SMS and to the possibility that those concepts could improve your organization.”

Jet LogisticsASHLEY SMITH, JR. President, Jet Logistics Inc.

From Mindset to Implementation

As the industry gears up for the new rule, W. Ashley Smith, Jr., president of Jet Logistics Inc., an air medical company that has achieved IS-BAO Stage 3 status, says operators should approach the SMS process with the right attitude.

“Open your mind to the concepts of SMS and to the possibility that those concepts could improve your organization,” Smith urged.

Smith suggests operators look to voluntary programs such as the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) for tips on implementing an SMS. He said that when his company first embraced IS-BAO, he found the process mostly just formalized what the company already did. “Now it is so ingrained in how we operate, it has evolved to be a quality control tool,” said Smith.

In fact, Smith credits a fully functioning SMS with making his company more efficient and effective.

“Implementing an SMS won’t materially change how you do business, but it will improve your efficiency. It’s a better way to do what you’re already doing. If you really embrace SMS, it will make your organization significantly better than it is today.”

Smith's example

Use Good Data

Another concept that operators need to keep in mind is that an SMS really runs on quality data. Tracking and trending data, such as Smith’s example of duty-day overages, helps organizations use their SMS to improve safety and efficiency.

“We can’t improve safety in an SMS if we are tracking and analyzing junk data metrics,” asserted Amanda Ferraro, CEO of Aviation Safety Solutions, LLC. “The data that operators collect should be meaningful and help answer the question of ‘Where is the next accident coming from?’”

Ferraro continued, “Tracking how many times we are logging into safety software is an example of junk data for answering the question of ‘Where is my next accident coming from?’ If we use an SMS to track quality data and analyze it appropriately, it will help answer that question.”

Examples of quality data metrics include items related to accountability for tool control, unstabilized approaches, long landings, TCAS resolution advisory events and maintenance vendor errors.

In addition to collecting meaningful data, operators need to analyze the data closely and implement hazard mitigations based on the results.

“SMS generates a lot of data, but it’s worthless if you don’t do something with the data,” Smith declared. “If you don’t use the data, it’s a wasted opportunity.”

On a day-to-day basis, Smith finds particular value in the use of a flight risk assessment tool, which gives his pilots an objective standard by which to make go/no-go decisions or, in some cases, an opportunity to reasonably mitigate risk without making the pilot the “bad guy” to passengers when a flight is delayed or canceled.

Flight Risk Assessment Tool

 

 

 

[For a thorough analysis and guide to FRAT for business operations, click on this link to the Flight Safety Foundation webpage.]

 

 

 

Achieving Compliance

Having an SMS evaluated through a voluntary industry audit program might not ensure compliance with Part 5, if that’s the direction the FAA decides to go, so Ferraro suggests operators with an existing SMS look at the FAA’s voluntary program, which includes a gap analysis tool. Operators should complete the gap assessment to determine what steps might be needed to fully comply with Part 5.

Although some differences between IS-BAO, for example, and Part 5 might seem to be simple semantics, there are some process differences. Ferraro estimates that an operator with IS-BAO accreditation is 75% of the way to complying with Part 5.

Common areas of concern, in Ferraro’s experience, include inconsistent application of safety management principles and SMS processes that are only partially implemented.

Not Just for Flight Operations

Some organizations focus their SMS efforts on flight operations, but maintenance and other functions of a company must be in sync with the SMS processes, too, Ferraro added.

Other companies allow their SMS to become stale, completing a risk profile, for example, then letting the document sit on a shelf for years without using it as a tool to proactively identify new risks.

Ferraro urges operators and others that might be subject to a future SMS rulemaking to start planning now, whether they already have an SMS in place or are just starting to consider one.

“Don’t wait for a mandate,” said Ferraro.  clipboard CLOSE

 

 

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