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FAA's new rule requires SMS program implementation at over 200 airports

The FAA is implanting a new rule amid a series of highly publicized runway incursions at airports across the country. The new rule will require certain airports to develop and implement a safety management system (SMS) to help identify and mitigate safety problems before they result in incursions or accidents. The rule is announced as the FAA faces serious scrutiny over its ability to safely lead aviation, with acting administrator Billy Nolen testifying at a Senate Committee hearing on Wednesday.RELATED STORY:Returning to 'gold standard for aviation safety' top priority at senate committee hearing with FAA's Billy Nolen The new rule will apply to 200 of the busiest commercial airports in America, with a four to five-and-a-half-year timeline for full implementation, depending on the airports' classification and operations. The program can help airlines and manufacturers usher in a safer era in aviation. It will be effective 60 days from the publication in the Federal Register. Safety in aviation is a growing concern among industry leaders and government officials, with the FAA working to implement safer techniques like the proposed SMS program. Airports that voluntarily implemented the system have reported better efficiency in identifying potential hazards in daily operations and mitigating the risks, such as pedestrian safety on ramps and operations with ground support equipment. "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," Associate Administrator for Airports Shannetta R. Griffin said. SMS has been implemented within many organizations and the expansion of the program will align with current ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices. The rule will apply to approximately 265 certified airports, covering 90 percent of all U.S. passenger enplanements and including facilities with the largest number of commercial operations. The program is not required at small airports with fewer resources, where implementing the program may be a larger burden and not cost-effective. The goal is to implement the safety program in a high-risk area since most crashes occur during the takeoff and landing stage and can create a tremendous risk for runway incursions or collisions.RELATED STORIES:Recent runway incursions cause alarm, stats show they are on the riseFlight crew refuses interview after JFK runway incursion, NTSB issues subpoenas The number of documented runway incursions is steadily rising, with notable near misses like the FedEx 767 and Southwest Airlines 737 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) overlapping less than 1000 feet apart as one plane took off and the other landed. Another close call occurred at JFK when the American Airlines 777 and a Delta Airlines 737 when the AA flight crossed the runway without clearance, an investigation that is still ongoing and has led to the NTSB issuing subpoenas after the AA flight crew refused to partake in a recorded interview. This new rule was announced after the announcement of another runway incursion being investigated by the NTSB, where a Boeing 777 crossed the runway in front of a landing Cessna 208B at Honolulu International Airport on Jan. 23.We have seen many accidents that likely would have been prevented by a robust SMS. And we have issued and reiterated numerous safety recommendations asking for this safety enhancement.— NTSB Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) January 10, 2023 The new rule is meant to expand the safety benefits of SMS to certain certificated airports and address safety at an organizational level.
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