NTSB Statement on FAA Final Rule Requiring Operators and Organizations to Have Safety Management Systems


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​​​WASHINGTON (April 23, 2024) – The National Transportation Safety Board welcomes recent action by the FAA that will require charter airlines, commuter airlines, helicopter emergency medical services, air tours and certain aircraft manufacturers to implement safety management systems (SMS) but more action is needed to protect all passengers.

“Requiring more operators to implement proven strategies to protect the flying public is a positive step for safety, and one the NTSB has long supported,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “I applaud FAA for today’s action, which will go a long way toward protecting flight crews and passengers in our skies. We look forward to working with FAA to address even more of our safety recommendations and, together, make our nation’s stellar aviation safety record even better.” 

SMS is an organizational-wide system that ensures operators and manufacturers are properly identifying, assessing, and mitigating the conditions that exists before an accident occurs. By collecting and analyzing data on potential problems and evaluating mitigations, operators and manufacturers can properly predict and prevent accidents. 

The NTSB issued its first aviation recommendation on SMS in 2007 that resulted in the FAA requiring commercial air carriers to implement an SMS. However, NTSB investigations have consistently supported expanding the requirement for SMS to other aviation service providers. Our investigation of the Jan. 26, 2020 helicopter crash in Calabasas, California revealed that, although the operator of that on-demand flight had implemented an SMS, the operator had no documented policy and safety assurance evaluations, which hindered the effectiveness of its SMS. The NTSB recommended that operator participate in the FAA’s voluntary SMS program, which the company decided to not implement. Low participation in these voluntary programs despite FAA promotion, underscores the importance of a mandate.

“This is a significant step forward for aviation safety. I’m pleased the FAA issued the final rule requiring all Part 135 operators and Part 91.147 air tour operators to implement a Safety Management System,” said NTSB member Michael Graham, “Operators are safer when they proactively and systematically identify hazards and mitigate their changing risks through a Safety Management System.”

The NTSB currently has 6 open recommendations to the FAA regarding SMS (A-16-036, A-19-028, A-21-013, A-21-014, A-21-048, A-22-015). The NTSB is currently reviewing the rule to determine which recommendations would be satisfied by it. The NTSB’s response to an earlier Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this issue is available on its website​.      

To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).