SMS Final Rule Issued


The FAA has issued a final rule requiring charter, air tour operators and many manufacturers to develop and maintain safety management systems. The agency said last fall that it would make the requirement, and it sent the final rule to the Federal Register on Monday. “Requiring more aviation organizations to implement a proactive approach to managing safety will prevent accidents and save lives,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said in a statement. Airlines have required SMSs since 2018, and the FAA required airports to have them last year. Most other countries have implemented similar rules for the majority of their aviation industries.

Safety management systems entail four major components: safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. By formalizing the company’s attitude toward and implementation of safety protocols, SMSs help companies recognize and address safety issues before they become crises. “SMS provides a means for a structured, repeatable, systematic approach to proactively identify hazards and manage safety risk,” the agency said in a news release. “By incorporating SMS, these aviation organizations will be better able to develop and implement mitigations that are appropriate to their specific environment and operations.”   

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Too bad the FAA doesn’t enact one for itself. With the issues going on with ATC, kind of tells anyone what the FAA really thinks of SMS. How does that go, “do as I say, not as I do”!

  2. SMS is only as good as the management of the company using it. The FAA doesn’t have the resources to regulate nor enforce such safety systems. To comply with the regulation most 135 companies will buy a boiler plate program and get it stamped FAA Approved. That will be the extent of their SMS program.

    • I agree. I will add that there are many inside the FAA who don’t believe in SMS either, otherwise this requirement would have been enacted years ago. It’s just another paperwork exercise.

    • The 135 and 91.147 air tour operators will work with their local FSDO as they enact their SMS programs and ASIs at the FSDOs will conduct surveillance and provide assistance to ensure these scaled programs operate effectively, similarly to what has been accomplished with 121 operators for several years now. None of these programs will be “stamped FAA Approved” nor will that “be the extent” of these programs.