A Blog Analysis Of Aviation SMS
This same question is being asked by operators over and over again: “Why does the Global Aviation Industry, being Airlines or Airports, need a Safety Management System (SMS) today, when they were safe yesterday without an SMS?” There are many great safety tools within an SMS program, but SMS does not provide an answer to the question itself.
|SMS is the process of performing while avoiding reverse at high speed.|
SMS was sold to the aviation industry as being the perfect reactive safety process and they fell for it. Reactive measures were how safety was improved in the old days, ever since Orville Wright’s first flight. So, if operating with an SMS does not prevent accidents or improve safety, why are we doing it? If SMS was not viewed as the perfect safety tool, the Regulator would accept a frequency of fatal aviation accidents, just like they accept accidents on the road for small vehicles and big-trucks. But they don’t. This does not in any way, shape or form imply that the Aviation Industry, the Regulator or the Public must accept any aviation accidents, but rather that the Regulator by implementing SMS, have accepted the inherent risk in flying that goes beyond the capability of regulating safety in operational control.
In December of 2017 there was another fatal accident when an SMS airline crashed shortly after the aircraft became airborne. One reason for the crash is that SMS is still working in the concept of possibility and have not yet moved into flight-specific probability. With a bush-pilot approach to departure, where the probability for a successful takeoff is assessed, a pre-takeoff probability analysis would have pre-determined the outcome. SMS is detailed hard work and analysis of each pre-flight and not a trend analysis of past performance.
The TSB report from the accident back in December of 2017 states that “…taking off with contamination on critical surfaces is a deviation that has become normalized. Therefore, providing adequate de-icing and anti-icing equipment may not be sufficient to reduce the likelihood of aircraft taking off with contaminated critical surfaces.” This TSB report actually states that both airport or airline operators accept lower standards than what’s in their SMS manual by allowing for contaminated aircraft to depart. This event parallels the Dryden accident, where flight attendants or passengers were not allowed to question the Captain’s decision. Airport operators do not see it as their role in safety to promote the clean aircraft concept. With the implementation of SMS software and SMS paperwork the emotions of human factors have been removed from the equation to a point where safety is no longer paramount, but a check-box task.
When there is adequate de-icing equipment in place, TSB reports that airlines are rejecting to use their equipment and airport operators makes equipment unavailable by blocking it with snowbanks. SMS was intended to build bridges and remove silos. The TSB report shows that gaps between airport and airline safety has become wider over the years since SMS was implemented.
SMS has become its own worst enemy when airlines and airports do not comprehend the fact that SMS is more specialized than what they can ever imagine and more than they can manage themselves. Airports and airlines have personnel and position filled to ensure that all checkboxes are filled in and that the Regulator accepts their documentation, but they are operating without comprehending the SMS. This is simply stated in the TSB report as “…deviation that has become normalized “. The SMS hierarchy itself by the position of the Accountable executive (AE) makes it difficult to allow comprehension of SMS since the AE is too far removed from the operations itself. The AE might be regulatory required to accept SMS, but if the AE does not comprehend SMS this will trickle down in the organization. E.g. if the AE does not believe in training, this attitude will filter throughout the organizations, or if the AE has not developed the SMS leadership skills this will also trickle down in the organization. AE might be regulated to comprehend SMS, but this does not ensure an operational sound SMS program.
|SMS today is to the AE what an empty wallet to a financial advisor|
An effective SMS operation needs to implement and operate with an emotionally independent specialty team. This is a team of operational, but independent, integrated personnel to ensure SMS project planning and quality leadership. It’s vital for a successful SMS that airlines and airports comprehend why they need an SMS today, when they were safe yesterday without an SMS. This question is not going away. If they are looking for a quick-fix and one-fit-all answer they are searching in someone else’s haystack. If they don’t think this is a valid question, they already took the wrong turn at the fork in the road. Since there still are accidents after SMS, the key to the answer is not about safety but about probability. The answer is found in the position contracts established by the organizational chart and in the accountable executive’s opinion. It’s a myth that airports and airlines were safe yesterday and that’s the reason we need SMS with Quality Leadership today.