US FAA to require charter airlines and manufacturers to use safety tool

US FAA to require charter airlines and manufacturers to use safety tool

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday it is finalizing new rules requiring charters, commuters, air tour operators and aircraft manufacturers to implement a key safety tool aimed at reducing accidents.

The FAA adopts a final rule mandating the use of safety management systems (SMS), which are a set of policies and procedures to proactively identify and address potential operational hazards, after initially proposing to do so in January 2023. U.S. airlines have been required to have SMS since 2018 and some aerospace companies already have voluntary SMS programs like Boeing (NYSE:).

“Requiring more aviation organizations to implement a proactive approach to safety management will prevent accidents and save lives,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker.

In 2020, Congress directed the FAA to require SMS on aircraft manufacturers as part of a broader certification reform project following two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes, but the FAA’s final rule goes beyond the requirements of legislators.

The issue of safety management has received new attention after a cabin panel exploded in flight on a new Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. The FAA barred Boeing from expanding production of the 737 MAX and ordered the planemaker to develop a comprehensive plan to address “systemic quality control issues” within 90 days.

SMS systems require four key elements: security policy, security risk management, security assurance and security promotion. In 2023, the FAA required major airports to adopt SMS programs after more than 10 years of study.

The National Transportation Safety Board has urged the FAA to require and verify SMS systems in all revenue passenger airline operations.

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The NTSB has previously stated that “too many operators either do not have one in place or have one that is ineffective… It is time to do more. The risk to the traveling public is too great not to TO DO.”

The NTSB has cited SMS systems in a number of incidents, including the 2020 helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others. The council cited in its report “the operator’s incomplete implementation of its safety management system” and the benefits of a mandatory SMS.

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