FAA Extends Airport SMS Rulemaking Timeline Through 2014

On December 10, the Department of Transportation issued the December 2012 Significant Rulemaking Report (DOT Report).  To ACI-NA’s surprise, the document included a substantive update to the schedule of the airport safety management systems (SMS) rulemaking effort.

As noted in the DOT Report, the FAA has proposed to issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) by December 2013, followed by an additional public comment period that is currently scheduled to conclude in February 2014, and ultimately publication of a final airport SMS rule sometime later in 2014.

ACI-NA contacted FAA Office of Airports representatives last week and confirmed the schedule shown in the DOT Report is accurate, although probably conservative (i.e., FAA is seeking to publish the SNPRM sooner than the schedule indicates). One of the reasons that the FAA decided to pursue the SNPRM was to give industry stakeholders—and the public at large—a second chance to comment on what ACI-NA expects will be a substantially revised proposed rule.

We are hopeful that revisions to the rule will include ACI‑NA requested changes, including phased deployment of airport SMS programs, improved program scalability, exclusion of non-movement areas from mandatory SMS program coverage, and specific provisions addressing SMS data protection and liability issues.

ACI-NA sees the SNPRM effort as a positive step towards addressing the wide-ranging and substantive concerns that member airports of all sizes have voiced regarding the original Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for Airport SMS, which was issued more than two years ago. 

This said, we are still awaiting positive confirmation that many of the concerns that ACI-NA and our member airports raised regarding the NPRM have been (or will be) addressed in the SNPRM.  To this end, we have asked the FAA to release its responses to industry comments regarding the original NPRM prior to issuance of the SNPRM.

ACI-NA will also continue to provide substantial input to the draft of Advisory Circular 150/5200‑37A, Safety Management Systems for Airports.  Members of our Operations & Safety Working Group are currently working to rewrite Chapters 4 (Safety Risk Management) and 5 (Safety Assurance) to improve their clarity and usefulness to airport operators.  We are also developing additional comments regarding other portions of the draft AC.

If you are interested in this effort or would like more information regarding the U.S. airport SMS program, please contact Chris Oswald or Matt Griffin.  In the meantime, we will continue to update you on airport SMS developments in both the U.S. and Canada.