SMS aviation requirements changing for Part 135 and 145 operators
When I left my EMS Chief Pilot job many years ago, Safety Management Systems (SMS) aviation was gaining traction. None of us knew what it was back then, and to be honest, I’m still not 100% sure what it is now. However, I know that there are SMS regulations in place for Part 121 carriers, and now it looks like Part 135 and 145 operators are going to get in the game too.
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) is introducing a voluntary SMS Implementation Project (VSIP) to determine how to best use SMS across both Part 135 charter companies and Part 145 repair stations. The project was initiated due to the FAA’s intention to mandate SMS programs for Part 135 and 145 operators.
It looks like the FAA will be using the regulations already in place for Part 121 carriers. Still, it’s not clear whether those requirements will be suitable for the wide range of operations needed for 135 and 145 operators. For example, training, data collection, and information assessment could be challenging for smaller companies.
The goal of VSIP is to identify solutions that will universally work for the wide variety of size, scope, and complexity of the large number of operators that make up the Part 135 and 145 communities. NATA wants to find practices that work for the volunteer groups and then share this information with the FAA to develop the new SMS rules and regulations.
So far, the volunteers consist of 10 businesses of varying sizes and experience levels. Some are familiar with certain safety programs, and some have no SMS background. They will all incorporate an SMS program into their business models using one proven successful with Jet Linx. NATA will provide implementation assistance and guidance, including on-site visits to see what isn’t working for the various control groups. The research will consider effects on even the smallest operators, including single-pilot organizations.
My hat is off to any single-pilot organizations who care enough to go to the effort of establishing an SMS program. The project’s goal is to bring the volunteers together after the trial period is over to discuss what worked and what didn’t regarding their SMS Aviation programs. It is an impressive way for NATA to raise awareness and prepare 135 and 145 operators for what is coming their way very soon. I’m confident that this volunteer project will help all of us as the FAA mandates SMS for everyone.