8900.1 CHG 465



Section 1  General

17-4-1-1    PURPOSE OF THIS CHAPTER. This chapter:

    Provides guidance for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards Service personnel to evaluate Safety Management Systems (SMS) of certificate holders participating in the Flight Standards Safety Management System Voluntary Program (SMSVP).

    Assists certificate holders, participating in the Safety Management System Pilot Project (SMSPP), transitioning to the SMSVP.

NOTE:  U.S. and international SMS initiatives and implementation efforts underscore the importance of standardizing SMS applications, where possible.1

17-4-1-3    AUDIENCE. This chapter serves as guidance to assist Flight Standards headquarters (HQ), Regional Office (RO), and field office personnel in SMS evaluation. This chapter is expected to be used by certificate‑holding offices (certificate management offices (CMO) or certificate-holding district offices (CHDO)) whose certificate holders have requested FAA recognition of their SMS. A secondary audience is certificate holders who want to implement an SMS accepted by the FAA.

NOTE:  All SMSPP participants are automatically entered into the SMSVP and may remain in the SMSVP until required by regulation to develop an SMS (see Volume 17, Chapter 4, Section 3, Figure 17-4-3S, Transitioning from SMS Pilot Project to the SMS Voluntary Program; and Figure 17-4-3T, Bridging Document Differences Between AC 120-92A and the SMSVP Standard).

NOTE:  For the purpose of this chapter, “CMT” refers to a Certificate Management Team, a CMO/certificate management unit (CMU), or a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)/CHDO with certificate oversight responsibilities.

17-4-1-5    PURPOSE OF THE SMSVP. The SMSVP is how the FAA conforms to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) definition of an SMS “acceptable to the State.”2 An SMS required by regulation or developed within this voluntary program corresponds to ICAO SMS requirements and will be accepted by other ICAO Member States.

NOTE:  Certificate holders in the SMSVP must meet all program requirements to achieve and maintain FAA recognition.

Indicates new/changed information.

NOTE:  Questions concerning this chapter should be directed to the Flight Standards Safety Management System Program Office (SMSPO) National Coordinator at 703-230-7664 ext. 250 or 9-NATL-SMS-ProgramOffice@faa.gov.

17-4-1-7    SMSVP PROCESS OVERVIEW. SMSVP implementation and continual improvement of a fully implemented SMS uses a phased approach. The following process phases are defined in Volume 17, Chapter 4, Section 2:

    Preparation Phase;

    CMT Validation Phase;

    Documentation Validation Phase;

    Design Demonstration Phase;

    Administrative Process Phase; and

    Continued Operational Safety (COS).

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17-4-1-9    SMSPO RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY. The SMSPO is part of the Safety Analysis and Promotion Division (AFS-900). FAA Order FS 1100.1, Flight Standards Service Organizational Handbook, assigns the SMSPO as the office of primary responsibility and focal point for Flight Standards SMS initiatives.

17-4-1-11    SMSVP GENERAL INFORMATION. A certificate holder may develop and implement an SMS in any manner it deems appropriate. However, when a certificate holder requests FAA recognition of its SMS, an Implementation Plan must be submitted to its CMT for validation against the SMSVP Standard (see Volume 17, Chapter 4, Section 3, Figure 17-4-3A, Safety Management System Voluntary Program Standard).

A.    Monitoring Certificate Holders’ SMSVP Standard Conformance. This chapter addresses SMS implementation within the SMSVP. A certificate holder will continue following existing regulations and certificate requirements. Once the FAA recognizes a certificate holder’s SMS, its CHDO will monitor ongoing conformity with the SMSVP Standard. Failure to maintain SMSVP standards may result in withdrawal of the certificate holder’s “SMSVP Active Conformance” status.

B.    SMS Implementation Progress. Once started, the certificate holder is expected to make steady progress towards full SMS implementation and continual improvement. The following categories denote the progress expected:

1)    SMSVP Active Applicant. The certificate holder and CMT have committed to sufficiently support the SMS implementation and validation processes.
2)    SMSVP Active Participant. The certificate holder officially begins and maintains its implementation efforts.
3)    SMSVP Active Conformance. The CMT and SMSPO acknowledge full implementation of the certificate holder’s SMS. The certificate holder is expected to use and continually improve its safety management processes.

NOTE:  When a certificate holder fails to meet SMSVP standards, it becomes an SMSVP Non‑Active Participant.

NOTE:  The SMSPO has sole authority to authorize or withdraw recognition of a certificate holder’s SMS. The SMSPO’s primary objective is to assist CMTs in validating SMS development and help certificate holders maintain their “Active Conformance” status. The SMSPO will maintain an SMSVP Status Roster of all participants.

C.    Recognition of Full Implementation. After SMS full implementation is recognized, the certificate holder is expected to use and continually improve its safety management processes. The CMT is expected to perform its certificate oversight duties where SMS is one of a number of performance measures determining COS. The SMSPO periodically verifies the certificate holder’s conformance to the SMSVP Standard by review of CMT oversight data.

D.    SMSVP Withdrawal. SMSVP participants are free to withdraw from the SMSVP at any time. If the certificate holder withdraws after SMSVP recognition, it must notify its CMT and the SMSPO and their status will be changed to “voluntary withdrawal” and the effective date recorded in the Status Roster.


A.    Certificate Management Team (CMT). The CMT is responsible for validating the certificate holder’s management system applications during the implementation process and after full implementation. Office management is responsible for allocating the resources to accomplish this requirement.

NOTE:  It is strongly recommended that a CMT, committed to supporting its certificate holder’s SMSVP participation, identify a point of contact (POC) to oversee CMT validation activities and communicate with the SMSPO.

B.    Certificate Holder. The FAA authorizes a certificate holder to provide an aviation service or product. In SMS development, a certificate holder designates an accountable executive who has final authority over operations authorized under its certificate and is ultimately responsible for the company’s safety performance. He or she signs and submits the SMS Implementation Plan on behalf of his or her company. The accountable executive’s signature is a commitment to provide adequate resources for SMS development, implement SMS in all relevant areas of the organization, and ensure ongoing conformance to the SMSVP Standard.

C.    SMS Program Office (SMSPO). In addition to the duties detailed in paragraph 17-4-1-9, the SMSPO may be contacted for guidance and policy interpretation through the CMT. SMSPO support is readily available upon request for all preapplication, validation, and COS activities.

NOTE:  To request SMSPO support services, please contact the National Coordinator at:

Safety Management System Program Office

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Safety Analysis and Promotion Division

13873 Park Center Road, Suite 475

Herndon, VA 20171

Phone: 703-230-7664 ext. 250

Email: 9-NATL-SMS-ProgramOffice@faa.gov

D.    SMS Regional Point of Contact (RPOC). The RPOC is the primary “local” resource for SMS implementation and support. RPOCs are alerted to requests for SMSPO onsite assistance and may participate in those activities. RPOCs may be asked to address and help resolve SMS-related conflicts. Additionally, RPOCs are information resources on SMS trends, development, and news throughout their region.3 While the SMSPO is the final authority on application of the SMSVP Standard, local and regional resolution of SMS‑related issues is encouraged.

E.    Senior Technical Specialist (STS). The STS for Safety Management is the FAA’s senior SMS subject matter expert (SME) and the official Aviation Safety (AVS) Organization SMS advisor. The STS resides in AFS-900. The STS consults on all internal and external SMS development, technical issues, rulemaking, and policy formation. In addition to the SMSPO, the STS works closely with industry, government agencies, advocacy groups, and international organizations to advance SMS and its application within the National Airspace System (NAS).

17-4-1-15    APPROVING/ACCEPTING MANUALS. Under the SMSVP, inclusion of SMS employee guidance in an aviation certificate holder’s manual system has no impact on CMT approval or acceptance of required manuals under existing inspector guidance.

A.    Example of a Disclaimer. The following disclaimer may be used: “[Approval/Acceptance] of this [manual/document/procedure] does not constitute approval or acceptance of guidance pertaining to the certificate holder’s SMS.”

B.    Purpose of the Disclaimer. The disclaimer provides the CHDO a means of identifying inclusion of a certificate holder’s safety management policy, processes, and procedures within its manual system, without impact to the CMT approval/acceptance process. The disclaimer further clarifies that CMT approval/acceptance of a manual does not constitute FAA recognition of the certificate holder’s SMS processes under the SMSVP.

17-4-1-17    SMS REFERENCES. This paragraph references additional resources available to CMTs during review and validation of a certificate holder’s SMSVP submissions.

A.    Regulatory Requirement. Title 14 CFR Part 5, Safety Management Systems for Domestic, Flag, and Supplemental Operations Certificate Holders, Final Rule (80 FR 1308, January 8, 2015).

B.    Related Publications. Advisory Circular (AC) 120-92, Safety Management Systems for Aviation Service Providers.

C.    Service Provider SMS Implementation Tools. Volume 17, Chapter 4, Section 3, Figure 17-4-3U, Definitions.

17-4-1-19 through 17-4-1-33 RESERVED.

1 The SMSVP Standard is how participants’ SMS development is measured. While similar to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 5 (“Safety Management Systems” for part 121 certificate holders), the SMSVP Standard, not part 5, is how SMSVP conformance is determined. SMS is an international initiative, so wherever developed, a properly constituted SMS includes safety policy, Safety Risk Management (SRM), Safety Assurance (SA), and safety promotion.

2 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Annex 19, Safety Management, Chapter 4.

3 RPOCs may also promote SMS development by contributing to news articles for online publications. (For example, see “What’s Happening With SMS” (Keeping Flight Standards and Industry Informed!), http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/afs/afs900/sms/media/sms_newsletter.pdf.)