• Todd Thomas

SMS: Coming to an Airport Near You


I recently finished a course through the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) called Airport Certified Employee (ACE) - Safety Management Systems (SMS). The course was based on the FAA Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making (SNPRM) release regarding Airport Safety Management Systems and included topics such as history of SMS, Pillars of SRM, applying SMS, Best Practice, ICAO standards, and so much more. What was interesting to me is how easily SMS crosses between industries!


While the course focused on things unique to the airport environment, the underlying pillars of SMS were the same as those I used to build an SMS program at my former Part 121 Supplemental Carrier.

  • Safety Policy & Objectives

  • Safety Risk Assessment

  • Safety Assurance

  • Safety Promotion

A safe trip by air begins and ends at an airport. While many of our airports already have outstanding safety programs in place, the process of certifying your SMS with the FAA will serve to enhance those safety programs. As airport management, if you do not already have a safety program in place, the SMS approach will guide you in building a strong one.


According to the FAA’s website the Office of Airports (ARP) is taking a two front approach to SMS 1) an internal effort to integrate the components and elements of SMS within the ARP organization, and 2) an external effort to integrate SMS into our airport certification process under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 139. The FAA’s SNPRM proposes to require an SMS only for a certificated airport classified as a small, medium, or large hub airport in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems; serving international air traffic; or having more than 100,000 total annual operations. Information on ARP's efforts, links to applicable guidance and other related documents can be found on the SMS for Airports website link here.


If the thought of building an SMS at your airport is overwhelming, you are not alone. ICAO suggests, in their SMS Manual, you take a phased approach to building your SMS. A typical timeframe to work through these phases is 18-24 months. Keep in mind that your timeline needs to be flexible and it can take longer for your SMS to fully mature. Here is a high-level overview of the phases ICAO suggests:

  1. Phase I – Personnel, Training and Objectives

  2. Phase II – Policies, Procedures and Plans

  3. Phase III – Targets and Reporting (Data Collections)

  4. Phase IV – Continuous Improvement, Promotion, and Integration

I am happy to see SMS regulations coming to airports. It will not only strengthen the safety at each airport affected but also the safety of our entire Air Transportation System. Baldwin Safety & Compliance is uniquely qualified to assist the management at airports who might need assistance building their SMS. Please contact us and let us show you how we can help!

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