How Will EASA SMS Rules Affect DIstributors?

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has formally begun the process of implementing Safety Management System (SMS) regulations.  Because past practice has been for certificate holders to “flow-down” a portion of their regulatory obligations to distributors, SMS and the manner in which it is implemented internationally remains an important issue for distributors.

EASA issued the Terms of Reference (TOR) for task number MDM.055 on July 18, 2011. This task anticipates the creation of adequate rules and guidance material to permit EASA to implement a set of SMS rules.

The Terms of Reference do not specifically explain to whom the SMS rules created under this project would apply – they merely mention some of the parties to whom ICAO has recommended apply it. This is a more important omission than some people may understand, and it provides EASA with the ability to dynamically change the scope of application as necessary during the course of the rulemaking project without amending the TOR. Under current ICAO recommendations, SMS should apply to air carriers, repair stations, manufacturers and airports. In the United States, the FAA made the decision to create two different SMS rules – one for airports, and then a second one for air carriers that is intended to be later applied to repair stations and manufacturers. EASA has said that it is amending COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 2042/2003 of 20 November 2003. This regulation applies to design and production organizations as well as maintenance organizations (but not to air carriers). EASA is clearly leaving itself open to any reasonable implementation strategy.

The final shape of SMS rules in EASA will be important to distributors who do business with both Europe and other parts of the world, because the data requirements of SMS could lead to reporting requirements from distributors to their SMS-compliant customers.

EASA intends for the internal EASA task group to do the following , as part of this task:

  • Review the existing rules and advisory guidance;
  • Adopt provisions for application for, and processing of, alternative means of compliance, to support standardization;
  • Implement management systems requirements to support compliance with the relevant ICAO standards on SMS;
  • Implement in the SMS standards new guidance on human factors for maintenance;

This SMS project will be worked internally within EASA, although EASA has reserved to itself the right to call informal meetings with industry or National Aviation Authorities for additional feedback. This internal project mechanism is consistent with the process recently used by Japan to create its SMS rules for repair stations (they offered the proposed rules for notice and comment but did not otherwise seek input from the international community). It is different from the FAA’s approach in the United States … the FAA formed an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) made up of industry and FAA and took advice from the ARC on how to formulate the air carrier SMS rules.

EASA has a very aggressive timetable set for the SMS project. They expect to issue a Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) to seek public comment in the second quarter of 2012.

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. Since 1992, he has represented aviation trade associations and businesses that include aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers, distributors, and repair stations, as well as both commercial and private operators.

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