Focused on Improving Safety

March 16, 2023
An SMS is essential to ensuring operations across the aviation industry are carried out while keeping people out of harm's way.
Josh Smith, editor Ground Support Worldwide
Josh Smith, editor Ground Support Worldwide

The ground support industry takes safety seriously – as it should.

In this issue, there are numerous examples of the industry sharing crucial information and demonstrating best practices to conduct ground service safely. In the following pages, you will find information on properly maintaining ground power unit (GPU) cables, updated training to avoid misfueling aircraft and efforts to mitigate ground damage and delays, among others.

Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new rule designed to help airports detect and mitigate safety problems in order to prevent accidents or safety incidents. The keystone behind this rule is a requirement for certain airports to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS).

“The safe operation of our nation’s airports is paramount during these historic times in aviation as we work to repair and construct necessary airport infrastructure,” FAA associate administrator for airports Shannetta R. Griffin, P.E., said in a news release announcing the new rule. “This rule promotes safety and allows airports to work collaboratively with partners to mitigate risks and  avert accidents.”

According to information supplied by the FAA, the final rule applies to more than 200 commercial airports across America. Depending on classification and operations, airports that do not have an SMS established will have a timeline ranging from 4-5 years to fully implement one. The rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In the ground support industry, the concept of SMS isn’t new. Ground service providers and FBOs have been utilizing SMS to improve ground operations and secure key certifications in the industry.

An SMS actively looks for safety issues in an FBO’s operations and services offered, considers safety objectives and identifies safety concerns. The framework for an SMS is included in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) international standards and recommended practices as part of Annex 19 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

For an FBO to achieve registration in the International Standards for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) program, that business must have an SMS in place. An SMS serves as the backbone of IS-BAH and helps an organization maintain best practices as the SMS matures and evolves.

Elsewhere, the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) is an industry global standard designed to improve the safety of ground operations and standardized operational procedures. ISAGO registration requires a ground service provider to implement an SMS if there are no regulations similar to those applied to air and airport operators.

To ensure safe practices are conducted consistently across the industry, oversight and audits are key. An SMS is crucial to identifying risks and taking steps to mitigate potential dangers. SMS implementation has been best practice for some time now. However, given the impetus of safety in aviation, in general, and ground support, specifically, we could see SMS implementation become a necessity.