So what's all the fuss about SMS? Professional aviation organizations generally have an established safety system that they operate under, whether they are in the business of providing flight operations, maintenance, ground services, training or building aircraft and components. Safety systems generally evolved from specific regulatory requirements (compliance) that addressed the minimum necessary safety standards required to achieve and maintain your operating certificate (if you have one).

What's different about SMS is the formal framework it provides that is consistently used in aviation, worldwide. The framework is based on the Standards and Recommended Practices prescribed in ICAO Annex 19, Safety Management Systems. You will find some slight variations from country-to-country, around the world, but for the most part, the structure and content is the same.

Safety management systems in aviation are generally considered to have four key components, including (ICAO terminology):

  • Safety Policy & Objectives;
  • Safety Risk Management;
  • Safety Assurance; and
  • Safety Promotion.

If you are subject to U.S. regulations (14 CFR Part 5), you will find the FAA expanded the ICAO definition of an SMS into five components, specifically breaking out:

  • SMS Documentation and Recordkeeping