FAA rule requires airlines to adopt safety management systems

The Federal Aviation Administration released a final rule Wednesday that will require most commercial airlines to have a Safety Management System (SMS) in place by 2018. 

The administration is referring to SMS as a top-down, organizationwide approach to managing safety risk and measuring the effectiveness of safety controls. 

“SMS gives airlines a set of business processes and management tools to examine data gathered from everyday operations, isolate trends that may be precursors to incidents or accidents, take steps to mitigate the risk, and verify the effectiveness of the program,” an FAA release said. 


The rule requires all Part 121 operations, meaning scheduled airlines, to submit a specific plan to the FAA within six months and then put said plan in place within the next three years. 

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBusiness, labor groups teaming in high-speed rail push Hillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide MORE said the new rule does not replace technical regulations. Airlines are still subject to FAA oversight and audits.  He said SMS will help the Department of Transportation reach its goal of reducing U.S. commercial flying fatality rates by 50 percent by 2050.

“Our top priority is ensuring the safety of the traveling public," he said, adding “there’s never been a safer time to fly in American than right now.” 

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the administration is receiving data from 96 percent of airlines now.

The rule is estimated to cost the airlines $224.3 million in compliance over the next decade, but DOT estimates the benefits could save $205 million to $472.3 million over 10 years.

The FAA is offering a federally developed and funded software system to help airlines implement SMS. The system is expected to cost the FAA $2.6 million per year to maintain.

The rule will take effect in 60 days.