In comments recently submitted by the NBAA to the FAA, the association made clear that while the industry supports initiatives to enhance the safety of flight, the agency's new proposal to expand airline safety management system (SMS) regulations onto business aviation misses the mark.
The proposed mandate, detailed by the FAA in a recent Notice of Proposed Rule-making (NPRM) would require all Part 135 operators, certain Part 21 certificate holders and §91.147 air tour operators to implement an SMS. The proposal expands existing Part 5 SMS requirements to these parties and adds new mandates to Part 5.
“The business aviation community considers safety to be a core value and has long been supportive of voluntary implementation of SMS and other safety initiatives,” says NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “But, for any SMS to be truly effective, it must be tailored to the size and complexity of each operation. When viewed in light of that guiding principle, we request that the FAA work with NBAA and other stakeholders to improve this proposal, so that it better serves the wide diversity of operational types within business aviation.”
In comments about the FAA SMS NPRM filed to the federal docket, the association pointed to several specific concerns, including:
- The lack of scalability and flexibility offered by the proposal, especially for the smallest operators. NBAA noted that as written, the broad, comprehensive mandate would apply to the largest Part 135 certificate holders, operating hundreds of aircraft, as well as the smallest Part 135 carriers, even those operating just a small, single-engine piston-powered aircraft with only one pilot.
- The inadequate timeline provided to ensure effective implementation of SMS requirements. The association called the proposal's 24-month compliance window “unrealistic,” noting that experienced, independent safety auditors routinely recommend a three- to five-year timeline for SMS implementation by operators.
- The uncertainty over whether the FAA is sufficiently equipped to effectively approve and oversee thousands of new SMS programmes. “The FAA has limited resources to meet existing SMS oversight requirements, much less to oversee new programmes,” NBAA said.
- The proposal's failure to align with International Civil Aviation Organization standards, creating conflict for certain operators with activities in and outside the United States.
NBAA provided a number of actionable recommendations to the FAA, including:
- Development of a new proposal, applicable to Part 135 and §91.147 air tour organisations, to allow for more scalability.
- Use of less prescriptive, more performance-based language to allow for more scalability and flexibility, including recognition of industry-established programmes and other alternate means of compliance with a mandate.
- A phased-adoption timeline, similar to that allowed for Part 121 airlines during the original Part 5 implementation, as well as for Part 139 airports subject to SMS requirements.
- Utilisation of an Aviation Rule Making Committee (ARC) following the conclusion of the public comment period to assist the FAA with reviewing comments and developing additional recommendations, as was done as part of the process to implement Part 5.
“NBAA encourages the FAA to engage with the industry, especially when it comes to new policies related to aviation safety,” Bolen goes on. “We welcome the opportunity to work together to explore new pathways for safety that are effective, flexible and scalable for all types of entrepreneurs and companies that rely on business aviation.”