FAA Issues Airline Safety Management System Final Rule

U.S. carriers must adopt SMS within three years.

In an effort to make already-safe airlines even safer, the FAA yesterday issued a final rule requiring most U.S. carriers to create formal safety management systems (SMS) by 2018.

Many airlines have already voluntarily created SMS programs, which include formal, top-down, organization-wide approaches to managing safety risk. An SMS gives an airline a set of business processes and management tools to examine data gathered from everyday operations, isolate trends that may be precursors to incidents or accidents, take steps to mitigate risk, and verify the effectiveness of the program.

“Aviation is incredibly safe, but continued growth means that we must be proactive and smart about how we use safety data to detect and mitigate risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “SMS gives airlines the tools they need to further reduce risk in commercial aviation.”

The rule requires airlines to implement a safety management system within three years. They must submit their implementation plans to the FAA within six months. The rule also requires a single accountable executive to oversee SMS.

Safety among U.S. airlines rose by 83 percent between 1998 and 2008, according to FAA figures. The agency and airline industry now share a goal of reducing the U.S. commercial fatality risk by another 50 percent from 2010 to 2025.

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