WASHINGTON—The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday proposed requiring charter, commuter, air tour operators, and aircraft manufacturers to implement a key safety tool aimed at reducing accidents.

The U.S. regulator wants to extend a mandate to adopt so-called Safety Management Systems (SMS), which are a set of policies and procedures to proactively identify and address potential operational hazards early on. U.S. airlines have been required to have SMS since 2018 and some aerospace companies already voluntarily have SMS programs like Boeing, GE, and Raytheon-subsidiary Pratt & Whitney

Congress in 2020 directed the FAA to mandate SMS for aircraft manufacturers as part of a wide-ranging certification reform bill following two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes but the FAA’s proposed rule goes beyond the requirements from lawmakers. SMS systems require four key components—safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion.

The National Transportation Safety Board has made one of its top recommendations urging the FAA to require and verify the SMS systems in all revenue passenger-carrying aviation operations

The NTSB said “too many operators either do not have one in place or have an ineffective one.​.. It’s time more got on board. The risk to the flying public is too great not to.”

The NTSB has cited SMS systems in a number of incidents including the 2020 helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others. The board cited the operator’s incomplete implementation of its safety management system” and the benefits of a mandatory SMS in its report.

The FAA is also proposing that each SMS include code of ethics that applies to all employees and clarifies that safety is the highest priority and adding a provision to ensure employees can confidentially report issues without concern of reprisals.

By David Shepardson

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