ACI-NA Promises Feedback to the FAA on its Internal SMS Program

ACI-NA will begin collecting “airport experiences” with the new FAA internal safety management system and provide feedback to the FAA as the agency implements the new program in the nation’s largest airports.

In a Sept. 27 meeting with senior staff from the FAA’s Office of Airport Safety & Standards, including Director Mike O’Donnell, ACI-NA staff noted that O’Donnell’s proposals are good ones and the association would like help the industry share its experiences with FAA leadership—whether good, bad, or ugly.  At the meeting, ACI-NA said it would begin collecting airports’ experiences with the FAA’s safety risk management process and organize airport “focus group” that can share their experiences and recommendations with the FAA. Additionally, ACI-NA will be holding a series of webinars to share what has been learned and help prepare the airports that have note participated in the assessment process..

As mentioned in previous editions of CEO Brief, the FAA’s internal safety management system program was established by FAA Order 5200.11, FAA Airports Safety Management System.  The order describes how the FAA’s Office of Airports must incorporate the processes into its day-to-day operations. Although it is described as an “internal” program, the order has significant “external” requirements, notably the requirement that numerous projects initiated by airport operators undergo safety risk management assessments. The order took effect on June 1.

At about the same time, citing resource, training, and staffing constraints, the FAA limited the mandatory applicability of the order only to large hub airports.  Despite this limitation, the FAA has given Airports Regional Offices and Airports District Offices broad discretion to apply the order to smaller airports where it is deemed “beneficial and appropriate.”

The FAA is seeking to learn from the initial safety risk management assessments panels it convenes and emphasized that the FAA’s intent is to limit the rollout of the internal order to large-hub airports while it gains experience with the process, O’Donnell noted. The initial rollout would be similar to a pilot program in that it would enable the FAA, airports, and other stakeholders to identify best practices, improve the processes, and identify areas where additional industry guidance is needed.

In the coming weeks, ACI-NA will be reaching out to airports that have participated in the assessments to recruit them into this focus group. 

As a closing note, ACI-NA has learned that the FAA does not expect to publish its final external safety management system before year-end.