With MRO SMS Mandates, Scalable Sells

Those in the U.S. MRO segment that favor a scalable approach to a safety management system (SMS) mandate will take comfort in the results of this survey.
Conducted by St. Louis University's Center for Aviation Safety Research (CASR), the survey is part of FAA's effort to determine how to proceed with SMS rulemaking beyond airlines and airports. (Rulemakings for them--under Part 121 and Part 139, specifically--are underway, with draft regulations published in October 2010.)
Two of the CASR survey's major takeaways: 65.4% of the 440 respondents believe that repair stations working on Part 121 aircraft should have an SMS, while 55.1% believe the same for facilities that service Part 135 operators.

Among those that work on transport category aircraft, which account for about 7% of the U.S.-registered fleet, 54.8% percent say they would "likely" voluntarily implement SMS, as would 42.2% of all respondents. Only 13.0% of the respondents already have SMS in place at their facilities.

While there’s plenty of variety among U.S. airlines and commercial airports, those groups look homogeneous next to the 4,100-odd FAA-approved repair stations. 

About 45% of FAA repair shops are textbook small businesses with fewer than 10 employees. At the other end of the spectrum, about 350 repair stations (9%) have payrolls with at least 200 people. 

Further complicating the issue: staff size doesn't directly correlate with the type of work done. The CASR survey found that about 52% of the facilities represented in the survey handle some transport category work, yet 75% of them have fewer than 100 employees. 

Creating an effective rule that covers such a variety of organizations is tough enough. Ensuring that rule rests soundly on the International Civil Aviation Organization's four-plank SMS platform--hazard identification, safety performance monitoring, remedial action when performance slips, and constant improvement--strikes some as fantasy.

"It is like mandating morality," says Sarah MacLeod, executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. "It looks good on paper, but it is impossible to enforce uniformly, let alone even-handedly." 

The idea of a scalable U.S. SMS rule isn't new. When FAA canvassed industry on suggested SMS approaches in 2009, many in the maintenance world suggested such an approach. 

Pratt & Whitney in its comments on FAA's 2009 query said it backs an "appropriately scaled" SMS program based on an organization's "level of activity" and type of work.

Business aircraft MRO specialist Duncan Aviation said it would only back an SMS mandate if it is "scalable to the operation employing it" and cost-free when not in use.

CASR's survey results suggest that a scalable approach to Part 145 SMS would be well-received--that is, as well-received as any new mandate can be.

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Things With Wings?

Aviation Week's civil aviation blog

From The Archives

Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


Aug 27, 2015

Aviation Week Lifts Veil On Boeing B-52 Bomber (1952) 16

In 1952, Aviation Week provided the first details on the new Boeing B-52 bomber....More
Aug 14, 2015

Bonanza Travel Pays 3

The legendary Beechcraft Bonanza has an impressive production record, so perhaps the marketers back in 1949 were onto something when they coined the phrase "Bonanza travel pays."...More
Aug 14, 2015

Venerable Boeing 727 Prototype To Fly Again 29

The most famous 727, the prototype aircraft which would join United as N7001U, was delivered to the airline in October 1964 having served its time as a Boeing test aircraft....More
Aug 13, 2015

Aviation Week And The Bomb

Aviation News did not predict how nuclear weapons would change the world. But neither did anyone else....More
Aug 13, 2015

Collins Radar Takes The Ups And Downs Out Of Flying

Turbulence? Rockwell Collins had a solution for those bumpy rides in the early 80s with its WXR-700 Doppler Weather Radar....More
Blog Archive
Penton Corporate

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×