Safety Management System (SMS) in general aviation!

Nobody is infallible, we all make mistakes – even errors that can grow into safety-relevant risks. Safety management is based precisely on this premise!

Within the framework of a Safety Management System (SMS), processes are created that improve communication about existing risks and the measures to reduce them – involving ALL (!) participants and stakeholders.

Sounds logical and is also easy to implement! However, it requires a certain critical faculties, discipline, perseverance and openness towards one’s own mistakes. The prerequisite for this is a living safety culture with an established “just culture“, in which errors are not seen as an evil but as a necessity for improving the current state. 

Realization: “Not error-free” – this is usually the biggest hurdle!

We know that when it comes to safety-relevant events, we have to talk about the iceberg principle. A serious event is preceded by factor X-thousands of smaller errors. Thousands of small errors, or thousands of small possibilities that, if recognized and eliminated, can avoid an imminent accident.

Through targeted methodology and measures, SMS attempts to eliminate precisely these small errors. The goal is to reduce the probability of a serious incident or even an accident. A safety management system is therefore a proactive approach to permanently improve flight safety step by step. 

The components of an SMS can be well compared to a house. We talk about a management “system” because a number of processes are integrated into a whole. The image of the house shows very nicely that none of the components may be missing, because each one contributes equally to the stability of the whole system.

The interaction of the individual components forms the system. Only with a mixture of beliefs, practices and procedures will safety within the organization be improved. We must learn to observe ourselves, recognize mistakes and draw the right conclusions from them.

The basic prerequisite for the successful life of an SMS is the development of a safety culture with the building of safety knowledge and the creation of safety awareness. The basis for this is training also in the use of the individual SMS elements. An SMS in general aviation is thus a formally anchored monitoring and process concept that is intended to ensure the safety of flight operations.

The prerequisite is safety knowledge and awareness.

The focus of an SMS is on risk management. By means of a “closed loop”, safety-relevant risks are identified, evaluated and monitored until the risk has been eliminated or at least reduced by a changed procedure. This means that findings are examined, documented and communicated. If the result is still not satisfactory, the loop starts again.

All in all: SMS is not witchcraft and does not interfere with the freedom of flying. No one is patronized. A well-established and integrated SMS gives the individual user valuable tools to re-evaluate and improve their own performance every day. Safety is thereby anchored as a driving force in flight operations.

The following blog posts will take a closer look at the individual components and go into detail about the steps and necessary basic requirements of the loop.