ACRP 04-05: A Guidebook for Airport Safety Management Systems

Airplane soaring above the clouds


With the expected growth in air transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry will need to adopt new measures to continue improving aviation safety. Safety management systems (SMS) can contribute to this effort by helping airports detect and correct safety problems before they result in aircraft accidents or incidents.


ARA was the prime contractor on a study for the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) to develop a guidebook for airport SMS. This guidebook helps 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 139 certificated airport operators implement a systematic, proactive, and well-defined safety management program that will help them reach the next level in the aviation industry. The guidebook describes the associated concepts, methodologies, processes, tools, and safety performance measurements that can be applied by airports based on their level of operations and complexity.

In particular, the SMS guidebook can help airport operators by providing a systematic, proactive approach that includes:

  • Documenting identified hazards and mitigating potential risks.

  • Monitoring and measuring the ongoing safety experience of the airport.

  • Establishing a voluntary non-punitive safety reporting system that can be used by employees of the airport operator, airlines, and tenants.

  • Improving the entire airport’s safety culture.

A key component of an SMS is safety risk management (SRM), which is used to classify potential airport risks according to their probabilities of occurrence and severity of consequences, to prioritize those risks according to their classification, and to define risk-mitigating actions that are continuously monitored.

A robust safety management system consists of several elements working together within a defined safety culture


Clearly, the ultimate goal of SMS is increased safety—in particular, fewer accidents and injuries. Moreover, increasing a system’s level of safety leads to reduced material losses and enhances productivity. This makes the case that safety is good for business. As a result of ARA’s innovation research in ACRP 04-05, airports now have documented guidelines for developing and implementing airport safety management systems. Many airports are proceeding with the implementation of SMS, and ARA has worked with several of them to evaluate and help implement their systems.

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