“The Most Wanted List defines the focus of the NTSB’s advocacy work. It directs our limited advocacy resources toward improvements with the greatest potential to make the greatest impact on saving lives, reducing injuries, and preventing accidents and crashes,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
Assembling the list—a practice begun in 1990—”serves as a beacon to safety advocates outside our walls,” he said.
Recent high-profile accidents in Part 91 and Part 135 operations and the FAA’s lack of response to prior NTSB recommendations were top of mind for the rollout of the two aviation items included on the 10-item Most Wanted List by a unanimous vote of the five-member NTSB.
Dana Schulze, director of the NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety, presented the SMS recommendation that was directed to the FAA, with the NTSB noting the slight-at-best participation of operators in the FAA’s voluntary SMS program.
Although SMS activity is slowly increasing, only 20 of approximately 1,900 Part 135 operators have had their SMS programs approved to date, with 213 others in various stages of the approval process, Schulze said.
The NTSB takes the position that a lack of FAA oversight and continuing accidents have made mandated SMS programs necessary for Part 91 operators as well. In March, the NTSB called for enhanced safety standards, identifying regulatory shortcomings it said had allowed some operators to “exploit loopholes to avoid stricter oversight.”
“The lack of a requirement for all Part 91 revenue passenger-carrying operators to have safety management systems and inadequate FAA oversight of those systems when voluntarily implemented introduce risks the NTSB determined were unacceptable and avoidable,” it said in a March 23 news release. In the Oct. 2, 2019 crash of a World War II-era Boeing B-17G that was flying on a “living history flight experience” flight, “the operator’s ineffective safety management system and the FAA’s inadequate oversight of it, contributed to the probable cause of the accident that killed seven and seriously injured five others.”
According to the NTSB, a SMS has four components: A safety policy, safety assurance, safety risk management, and safety promotion.
“To improve Part 135 and Part 91 safety, we should encourage operators to voluntarily implement such systems while simultaneously urging the FAA to require them,” the NTSB staff presentation said.
Responding to the NTSB’s March 23 announcement, the AOPA Air Safety Institute cautioned against an “overly broad” approach to general aviation safety management.
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