Tying a potential repair station safety management system (SMS) mandate to specific criteria, such as work performed on transport category aircraft, could be an acceptable alternative to a broad rule covering all FAA-certified facilities, a survey of MRO executives suggests.

The survey, conducted by St. Louis University’s Center for Aviation Safety Research (CASR), generated about 440 responses from repair stations of all sizes, including some foreign facilities. 

Among the major takeaways: 65.4% percent 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% of the respondents already have SMS in place at their facilities.

CASR conducted the survey as part of the FAA’s effort to evaluate possible approaches for mandating SMS for Part 145 organizations, following the current rulemakings for Part 121 airlines and Part 139 airports. 

Part of the FAA’s challenge is crafting a rule flexible enough to cover the wide variety of Part 145 organizations. About 1,840 (45%), of the 4,100 certified repair stations have fewer than 10 employees, while about 350 of them (9%) have more than 200 on staff. 

Also, staff size does not directly correlate with the type of work performed. 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. 

However, the survey results suggest that larger repair stations tend to have higher percentages of transport category work compared to smaller facilities

“By applying SMS compliance to the repair station industry based on a 7% of the total aircraft population, compliance may scale in a manner that is acceptable to the industry and the FAA,” says CASR’s report.