Nearly everyone working in the aviation industry is aware of the FAA’s promotion of Safety Management Systems. These new systems provide a way to improve one of the most major concerns of airports – safety.
Better known by their acronym SMS, these systems provide a systemic approach to managing all sides of safety at an airport. The FAA has done pilot projects to test and measure the effectiveness and implementation of SMS. With this in mind, the FAA seems ready to make SMS a regulatory requirement for Part 139 airports in the near future to further improve safety.
However, this does not mean that airports should delay exploring SMS options or procuring a system of their own until the FAA releases their guidelines. There are many benefits to being ahead of the regulatory curve.
Airports of all sizes — including Category X airports like Denver International — have already seen the value of implementing SMS systems. By using an SMS to proactively detect and address safety concerns, these airports have sought to increase the efficiency of their safety personnel and improve their safety operations.
The market has readily responded to these developments in aviation. SMS has become a widespread and well-known product. With so many options available, airport administrators must be selective about the type of SMS they choose. Three key factors must always be at the forefront of every airport manager’s mind when selecting a system: specificity to airports, availability of data analytics, and the ability to customize.
Having an SMS that is specific to airports is crucial to the airport’s successful implementation and use of the SMS. A system taken from another industry for use in the aviation industry will not perform or even fit the needs of airports as well as one that is clearly designed for aviation. Therefore, airports must look for an SMS that has been designed and built with airports in mind as the primary users.
The presence of onboard data analytics within an SMS is a valuable feature for airports of all sizes. A great SMS will present clear and easily understandable analytics, displaying important data through everything from heat maps and bar graphs to pie charts and line graphs. Overall, the analytics should allow airport staff to quickly see the most pressing trends in regards to safety incidents and reports in order to allow the staff to react and improve areas that may need attention.
The capacity for customization is also a key component to consider when procuring an SMS. Those in the aviation industry know that every airport is different and has different needs. A specific SMS that may work for one airport may not meet the needs or match the processes of another airport. The ability for an airport manager to have an SMS customized to their airport becomes vital. Airport management can ensure that the company they are procuring from will be delivering a system that specifically fits their needs and matches their processes. This similarity enables a smooth transition process for the airport staff to an SMS. It also means the airport will not need to change their processes to fit an SMS — these systems should be adaptable to fit the airport, not the other way around.
With action from the FAA, many airports may be looking to procure a system within a short period of time. By procuring an SMS in the near future, airports can stay ahead of the regulatory curve and ensure they receive a robust, customizable SMS that fits their needs and noticeably improves safety at their airport.