In an effort to improve safety at the busiest U.S. airports, the FAA has issued a rule requiring the adoption of safety management systems.
February 17, 2023, 11:08 AM

General aviation airports holding an operating certificate under FAR Part 139 and having nonscheduled international operations can apply for a waiver from new rules that require certain air carrier airports to have a safety management system (SMS).

According to the FAA, the intent of the rule “is not to impose a burdensome regulation on certificate holders with international service capabilities aimed exclusively at general aviation traffic.” However, the waiver is available as long as there is no tenant at the airport that must comply with a SMS requirement imposed by its country of origin.

This final rule requires airport certificate holders that qualify under one or more of the following triggers to develop a SMS: airports classified as large, medium, or small hubs; those that have a three-year rolling average of 100,000 or more total annual operations; or that serve any international operation other than general aviation. Thus, it will apply to more than 200 of the busiest commercial airports in the U.S.

The FAA revised the proposed compliance schedule to extend the SMS implementation period from 18 months to 24 months and require the submission of an implementation plan within 12 months (instead of six months) from the effective date of the rule, which will be 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The FAA also updated its Advisory Circular on SMS for airports based on these new requirements.

The adoption of SMS by airlines and manufacturers as well as other entities in the aviation industry is being credited by the agency for helping usher in the safest era in commercial aviation history. Key to the program’s function is the identification of risk and the implementation of steps to mitigate any potential safety issues before they result in accidents.

The safe operation of our nation’s airports is paramount during these historic times in aviation as we work to repair and construct necessary airport infrastructure,” said Shannetta Griffin, the FAA’s associate administrator for airports. “This rule promotes safety and allows airports to work collaboratively with partners to mitigate risks and avert accidents.”


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