FAA Seeking More Input On Airport SMS Draft Rule

Credit: Joe Pries

The FAA’s decade-long effort to mandate safety management systems (SMS) for U.S. commercial airports took a step forward Aug. 24 with the opening of an additional comment period on a draft proposal issued in 2016.

Industry’s latest opportunity to comment on the FAA proposal is meant to capture any new information that has emerged since the comment period closed in September 2016, the agency said.

“As a result of the time that has passed since the close of the . . . comment period, the FAA has determined it is appropriate to solicit comments on any new information or data that has come to light,” the agency explained. “The most helpful comments provide only data and information that was not previously submitted to the rulemaking docket, reference a specific portion of the proposal, explain the reason for any recommended change and include supporting data.”

The FAA’s original draft rulemaking for airports to integrate SMS came out in 2010 (AW&ST Jan. 27/Feb. 9, 2020) and proposed covering all FAA-certified Part 139 airports. Pushback from industry prompted the agency to issue a revised draft in 2016. Among the notable changes was dropping non-hubs and smaller airports from the mandate unless they serve international traffic or have more than 100,000 annual operations. The FAA also expanded the proposed compliance window to 24 from 18 months.

There are 518 Part 139 airports in the U.S., the FAA’s latest figures show. Among these are 136 large-, medium- and small-hub airports that would have to comply with the current version of the rule, plus several others that qualify as having either international operations or a high number of annual movements.

The new public comment period runs through Sept. 30.   

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.