8900.1 CHG 615



Section 1  General

17-3-1-1    PURPOSE. This chapter provides guidance for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards Service (FS) personnel to evaluate Safety Management Systems (SMS) of certificate holders participating in the Safety Management System Voluntary Program (SMSVP) and assists certificate holders with previous FAA SMS implementations and third-party SMSs in transitioning to the SMSVP.

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

17-3-1-3    AUDIENCE. This chapter serves as guidance to assist Flight Standards Safety Assurance and Office of Safety Standards personnel in SMS evaluation. This chapter is expected to be used by the responsible Flight Standards offices whose certificate holders have requested FAA recognition of their SMSs. A secondary audience is certificate holders who want to implement an SMS accepted by the FAA.

NOTE:  All Safety Management System Pilot Project (SMSPP) participants were automatically entered into the SMSVP and may remain in the SMSVP until required by regulation to develop an SMS. For the purpose of this chapter, “Certificate Management Team (CMT)” refers to the responsible Flight Standards office with certificate oversight responsibilities. Additional definitions are located in Volume 17, Chapter 1, Section 1.

17-3-1-5    PURPOSE OF THE SMSVP. The SMSVP is how the FAA conforms to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) definition of an SMS “acceptable to the State.”2 An SMS required by regulation or developed within this voluntary program meets or exceeds 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 acceptance.

NOTE:  Questions concerning this chapter should be directed to the FS Safety Management System Program Office (SMSPO) at 9-NATL-SMS-ProgramOffice@faa.gov.

17-3-1-7    SMSVP PROCESS OVERVIEW. SMSVP implementation and validation is a major configuration change to a certificate holder’s operational profile. The procedure used and described in this section is based on the Major Change Process contained in Volume 10, Chapter 11. The following process phases are defined in Volume 17, Chapter 3, Section 2:

    Preparation Phase;

    CMT Implementation Plan Review Phase;

    Documentation Validation Phase;

    Design Demonstration Phase;

    Administrative Process Phase; and

    Continued Operational Safety (COS).

17-3-1-9    SMSPO RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY. The SMSPO is part of the Safety Analysis and Promotion Division and is the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) and focal point for FS SMS initiatives. As such, the SMSPO “owns” the SMSVP and is responsible for development of guidance and job aids pertaining to the SMSVP.

17-3-1-11    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, the certificate holder must submit an implementation plan to its CMT for validation against the SMSVP Standard. Guidance on implementation plan review and approval is located in Volume 17, Chapter 3, Section 2, paragraph 17-3-2-3.

A.    Requesting Entry into the SMSVP. When requesting entry into the SMSVP, certificate holders should send a letter or email to the SMSPO at the address listed in subparagraph 17-3-1-13C. The letter must contain:

    A statement that your company’s top management is committed to establishing and maintaining an SMS program within the organization.

    A commitment to dedicate the necessary financial and personnel resources to implement and maintain the SMS.

    A request for entry into the FAA SMSVP.

    Signature(s) of a member or members of top management.

NOTE:  After this request has been received by the SMSPO, coordination will take place with the organization’s CMT to schedule dates for an initial briefing.

Indicates new/changed information.

B.    Monitoring Certificate Holders’ SMSVP Standard Conformance. This chapter addresses SMS implementation within the SMSVP. Once the FAA recognizes a certificate holder’s SMS, the responsible Flight Standards office will monitor ongoing conformity with the SMSVP Standard. Failure to maintain SMSVP standards may result in the SMSPO withdrawing the certificate holder’s “Active Conformance” status. Monitoring ongoing conformity is accomplished using the Safety Assurance System (SAS) Data Collection Tools (DCT) for COS, as discussed in Volume 10 or the COS job aids for Program Tracking and Reporting Subsystem (PTRS) users. If a nonconformity has been identified, the CMT will use Element Performance Data Collection Tools (EP DCT), the SMS Custom Data Collection Tools (C DCT) in SAS, or the job aids for PTRS users to evaluate if the nonconformity is the result of a performance or design issue with the SMS. Safety attributes assigned to these questions will aid in the root cause evaluation of the process failure. Once the failure has been determined, the certificate holder should be given sufficient time to rewrite their processes, train, evaluate, and implement them into their system. This could take 6 months to accomplish a “comprehensive review and fix.” Once the certificate holder has developed their procedures and implemented them, the CMT will reevaluate the area to ensure conformance with the SMSVP Standard. Principal inspectors (PI) will record all nonconformities in SAS or the PTRS (as appropriate) to maintain a record of the certificate holder’s corrective actions to ensure the certificate holder has returned to SMSVP Standard conformance. This documentation will also be used to ensure conformance in future surveillance.

C.    SMS Implementation Progress. After a letter requesting admission into the SMSVP is received, an initial workshop will be scheduled when the SMSPO resources, certificate holder, CMT are all available. After the initial workshop has been completed, it is expected that the certificate holder will submit and have approved within 12 consecutive calendar-months an implementation plan that describes their activities and a timeline for full SMS acceptance. SMS implementation plans are discussed in Volume 17, Chapter 3, Section 2, paragraph 17-3-2-1. A fully implemented and validated SMS is expected within 36 months of the initial workshop. Failure to meet these timelines could result in removal from the SMSVP. The SMSPO maintains a database which tracks the expected progress dates for certificate holders. The following categories denote the progress expected:

NOTE:  When a certificate holder fails to meet SMSVP standards, it may be downgraded to an SMSVP “Non-Active Participant.”

1)    SMSVP Active Applicant. The certificate holder and CMT have committed to sufficiently support the SMS implementation and validation processes.
Indicates new/changed information.
2)    SMSVP Active Participant. The SMSVP initial workshop has been completed, and the SMSPO determines the certificate holder has a complete implementation plan that meets the SMSVP Standard.
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:  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.

D.    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.

E.    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. Their status will be changed to “Voluntary Withdrawal” and the effective date recorded in the Status Roster.


A.    CMT. The CMT is responsible for validating the certificate holder’s management system applications during both 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.

Indicates new/changed information.

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. The accountable executive provides adequate resources for SMS development and implementation of the SMS in all relevant areas of the organization and ensures ongoing conformance to the SMSVP Standard.

C.    SMSPO. In addition to the duties detailed in paragraph 17-3-1-9, 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 SMSPO at:

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

Letter: Attn: SMS Program Office

Safety Analysis and Promotion Division

13873 Park Center Road, Suite 165

Herndon, VA 20171

D.    Safety Standards POC, Office of Air Carrier Safety Assurance, and Office of General Aviation Safety Assurance, Within the Office of Foundational Business. The Safety Standards POC within the Office of Foundational Business’s staff, with the assistance of the SMSPO, stays abreast of the latest SMS developments and information. They are appointed subject matter experts (SME) and resources for the CMTs.

E.    Senior Technical Specialist (STS). The STS for safety management is the FAA’s senior SMS SME and the official Aviation Safety (AVS) SMS advisor. The STS resides in the Safety Analysis and Promotion Division. 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).

17-3-1-15    SMS REFERENCES. This paragraph references additional resources available to CMTs during review and validation of a certificate holder’s SMSVP submissions.

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

B.    Job Aids. SMS Implementation and Validation job aids are located in Volume 17, Chapter 3, Section 3, Figures 17-3-3BR. COS job aids are located in Figures 17-3-3SV.

17-3-1-17 through 17-3-1-29 RESERVED.

1The SMSVP Standard is how participants’ SMS development is measured. While similar to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 5, the SMSVP Standard, which is not part 5, is how the 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.

2ICAO Annex 19, Safety Management, chapter 4.