RedTail Flight Academy Gets New SMS


The all-volunteer RedTail Flight Academy will be receiving advanced safety management system (SMS) software from Baldwin Safety & Compliance, according to an announcement from Baldwin. The Academy, which is working to promote the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and provide programs for “youth from areas traditionally underrepresented in aviation [and] other science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] careers,” opened its doors in September. Baldwin will also be contributing consulting and mentoring services to the school.

“I am excited to be working with the outstanding team at the RedTail Flight Academy and look forward to mentoring students that are presented with a unique opportunity for a career in aviation,” said Jason Starke, Baldwin Safety & Compliance director of standards. “As our industry’s workforce demands continue, it’s important that we open doors for these students to provide a future of diversity and inclusion.”

Located at New York’s Stewart International Airport (SWF), RedTail Flight Academy offers a Part 141 flight training curriculum, operated by Shepherd Aero, for students between the ages of 18 and 21. Students receive scholarships for the 10-month program, which is designed to take them through their multi-engine commercial license with an instrument rating. As previously reported by AVweb, RedTail Flight Academy took delivery of its first Piper Pilot 100i trainer during a ceremony at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last summer.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. After Colgan 3407 (12 Feb. 2009), on 01 Aug. of 2010, the feds promulgated PL 111-216. Sect. 215 SMS: The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall conduct a rulemaking proceeding to require all part 121 air carriers to implement a safety management system.
    14 CFR Part 5 was born from PL 111-216: 5.1 Applicability. (a) A certificate holder under part 119 of this chapter authorized to conduct operations in accordance with the requirements of part 121 of this chapter must have a Safety Management System that meets the requirements of this part and is acceptable to the Administrator by March 9, 2018. So, from 09 Mar 2018, all 121 carriers have had an SMS program.
    It’s on the way for 14 CFR Part 135 ops, watch for the NPRM late next year. The real sharp operators (bizjet ops, flight training, small cargo, and even third-party training providers) have already gained approval from the feds for their SMS Voluntary Program (SMSVP). FAA internal (standards, inspectors, airports, etc.) also have had SMS for awhile now. US is way behind the rest of the world….

  2. Here in NZ the consensus among small operators is that SMS is a massive waste of time and money. I wouldn’t go quite that far but I would say that 90% of the benefits come from 20% of the program, and the rest is a distraction and a waste.

  3. G,
    Fair enough, hear the same thing here with my 135 folks vs. the 121 crowd. If your org is doing any real safety at all, you should have most, if not all, of the core SMS components up and running: confidential reporting system, expertise to evaluate and investigate what comes in, skill in assessing frequency and severity of the hazards/determining risk, developing mitigations, and then evaluating effectiveness of the corrective actions. Is the residual risk acceptable, if so, good to go, if not, rinse and repeat. That’s SMS in a nutshell, as you know. Seems the most repeated gripe I hear from the smaller guys is workload. Use some of the hi-speed lo-drag SMS software packages to help out there. Of course, all this assumes a fairly decent culture, if your’s is pathological (we hide our accidents well), you’ve got bigger problems. Got to have buy-in from the top too, if not, might as well spend the $$ on spiffy paint jobs for the birds and cool uniforms for the pilots. What’s ‘gonna be your answer when your Accountable Executive asks you what will cause your next serious event??

    • That’s the useful 20% of SMS for a small operator, which most operators should have been doing already to some degree. The other 80% of SMS is where the real waste is. That waste has a safety cost: there are all sorts of ways to make our operation easier and more efficient, such as extra staffing or avionics upgrades and they all cost money.

      I have seen operators that were great at SMS and yet have a terrible culture, and vice versa. As you say, if your culture is bad then SMS will not fix it. If your culture is good, SMS will not help much, though it could help preserve the culture over the long term.

      To be fair, neither the regulator nor the operators had any clue about SMS when we were starting implementation, and today there are many software options, so implementing SMS today should be much easier. Of course, the NZ CAA interpretation of SMS with its 13 elements will be much different from whatever the FAA comes up with.