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Business Air News Bulletin
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GAMA and NBAA respond to FAA SMS final rule
The rule requires all Part 135 operators, certain Part 21 certificate holders and §91.147 air tour operators to implement an SMS, expanding existing FAR Part 5 SMS requirements and adding some new mandates to Part 5.

The FAA is issuing new requirements for charter airlines, commuter airlines, air tour operators and certain aircraft manufacturers to implement a safety management system (SMS).

SMS provides a means for a structured, repeatable, systematic approach to proactively identify hazards and manage safety risk. By incorporating SMS, these aviation organisations will be better able to develop and implement mitigations that are appropriate to their specific environment and operations.

The FAA's final rule mandates that these organisations develop a SMS within one to three years, depending on the operation. The FAA has required US airlines to have SMS since 2018, and some manufacturers have already developed and implemented SMS, which the FAA accepted.

"Requiring more aviation organisations to implement a proactive approach to managing safety will prevent accidents and save lives," says FAA administrator Mike Whitaker.

The rule also requires those who have an SMS to share hazard information with other aviation organisations so they can work collaboratively to identify and address potential safety issues.

The final rule goes beyond the requirements of the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act of 2020, which directed the FAA to mandate SMS only for aircraft manufacturers. The rule also addresses recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board and independent review panels.

GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce says: "Safety is the top priority for the aviation industry and, as a strong supporter of SMS standards for aviation manufacturers for many years, GAMA welcomes the FAA's final rule. SMS is a structured and proactive approach to managing safety, fostering a robust safety culture that positively impacts a company's management, employees, products and services, and strengthens communication and the resolution of safety issues across all levels and disciplines of the company.

"We appreciate the FAA Aircraft Certification Service for working with manufacturers on the voluntary SMS programme and applaud the FAA for issuing this final rule to further strengthen our aviation safety systems through SMS implementation and oversight. We also recognise the US Congress for its support of SMS and the important legislative contribution to the completion of this rule-making."

The NBAA also commended FAA officials for reflecting NBAA feedback in key provisions included in the new final rule. President and CEO Ed Bolen says: "The business aviation community has always considered safety to be a core value and has led the way in the voluntary adoption of SMS and other best practices. This final rule largely reflects comments from NBAA and hundreds of others who have noted that for an SMS to be effective, it must be tailored to the size and complexity of each operation."

The new rule requires all Part 135 operators, certain Part 21 certificate holders and §91.147 air tour operators to implement an SMS, essentially expanding existing FAR Part 5 SMS requirements to these parties and adding some new mandates to Part 5.

In response to specific input from NBAA, the rule ensures scalability for the smallest operators, eschews unduly burdensome Part 5 mandates for single-pilot operations and provides a more reasonable timeline for implementation of SMS requirements, from 24 to 36 months.

That said, NBAA notes that in formulating the new rule, the FAA did not implement the association's recommendation to utilise industry standards, such as the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO).

"While the FAA's new rule appears appropriate in broad brushstrokes, the key going forward will be for the agency and industry to work in collaboration to ensure that rule's real-world implementation is smooth, scalable and squarely focused on measures that demonstrably enhance safety," he continues. "We look forward to working with the agency as a partner on this shared goal."

The publication of the final rule marks the latest development in NBAA's long-running involvement with the FAA and its planned expansion of SMS requirements. The association alerted industry when then-FAA administrator Steve Dickson indicated FAA's intent to pursue SMS rules for additional aircraft operations in 2021. As expected, in early 2023, the agency followed up on its plan, issuing a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) on the SMS, accompanied by a comment period that was extended to April of last year.

In response to the NPRM, NBAA activated the association's Online Grassroots Action Center for the industry to understand the proposal's details and submit comments to the public record to register concerns. In all, the FAA received nearly 200 comments from the association and industry by the close of the comment period on 11 April, 2023.

The rule should take effect on 26 May, 2024, and will apply to nearly 1,850 Part 135 operators and more than 700 air-tour providers. NBAA is preparing additional resources for compliance with the new SMS, expected to be issued in the coming days.

Web Manuals COO Paul Sandstrom says: "The FAA's latest mandate not only recognises the importance of incorporating an SMS, but it also exemplifies just how crucial digitalisation is when it comes to aviation safety.

"An SMS identifies, assesses and mitigates safety risks by providing an intuitive tool for streamlined documentation and proactive risk management. Beyond safety, incorporating a digital SMS can further enhance operational efficiency, while also making compliance more manageable.

"It’s great to see the FAA putting regulations in place to ensure no organisation can compromise on best practice. We truly believe this marks a significant step forward for our industry."

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