SMS in Aerodrome Operation

SMS in Aerodrome Operation


A system for the management of safety at aerodromes including the organisational structure, responsibilities, procedures, processes and provisions for the implementation of aerodrome safety policies by an aerodrome operator, which provides for the control of safety at, and the safe use of, the aerodrome. (ICAO)

Regulatory Requirements

ICAO Annex 14, Volume I "Aerodrome Design and Operations" requires States to establish a safety programme in order to achieve an acceptable level of safety in aerodrome operations. As part of their safety programme, States shall require certified aerodrome operators to implement an accepted safety management system (SMS). The scope of the SMS shall include as a minimum:


The intent of a safety management system is to have in place an organised and orderly approach in the management of aerodrome safety by the aerodrome operator. The SMS shall clearly define lines of safety accountability throughout the organisation, including a direct accountability for safety on the part of senior management. Moreover, according to Doc 9774 - Manual on Certification of Aerodromes, all parties operating on an aerodrome shall comply with the aerodrome safety requirements and shall participate in the SMS.

The SMS shall be documented in the Aerodrome Manual. This should include names and positions of key personnel, including their responsibilities for safety, as well as the safety interfaces (lines of communication and cooperation) with local ATM and CNS, if these are not part of the aerodrome organisation. An aerodrome safety manager shall be identified who has the overall responsibility for aerodrome safety. The Safety Manager shall be supported by airport safety committee(s).

Components of an Aerodrome SMS

Safety Policy

A statement that the highest priority shall be attached to safety in relation to all business activities. It normally includes a business objective for safety that aerodrome's contribution to aviation accident risk shall be minimised (as low as reasonably practical). The safety policy safety policy shall formalise:

  • The commitment of the organisation to adopt an explicit, proactive approach to safety management;
  • Safety-related responsibilities throughout the organisation;
  • Compliance with appropriate safety standards;
  • That safety assurance processes used by external suppliers comply with the aerodrome's safety management standards and requirements.

Structure and Responsibilities

A description of the structure or organisation of the SMS, including staffing and the assignment of individual and group responsibilities for safety issues.

Strategy and Planning

This SMS component includes:

  • Setting of the safety performance targets, e.g. about movement areas safety, pavement maintenance, electrical services, RFF etc;
  • Allocating priorities for the implementation of safety initiatives, e.g. analysing weaknesses, audit against Annex 14, etc;
  • Establishing the framework for minimising the risks to levels as low as reasonably practical (requires an organisational unit that can analyse results and achieved performance, learn lessons and suggest improvement actions);
  • Continuous compliance with ICAO safety standards and national regulations.

Implementation and Enforcement

This component includes facilities, methods and procedures for the effective communication of safety messages and the enforcement of safety requirements.

Safety Measures Programme

A system for the implementation of, and action on, critical safety areas which require a higher level of safety management integrity. Such programmes may be aerodrome specific, for example about low visibility operation, high density operation, winter operation, etc.

Safety Promotion and Risk Control

This core component of the SMS includes measures for safety promotion and accident prevention, and a system for risk management involving reporting, analysis and handling of accidents, incidents, complaints, defects, faults, discrepancies and failures, and continuing safety monitoring.


The aerodrome operator shall arrange for an audit of the SMS, including an inspection of the aerodrome facilities and equipment. The audit shall cover the aerodrome operator's own functions. The aerodrome operator shall also arrange for an external audit and inspection programme for evaluating external service suppliers, including fixed-base operators, ground handling agencies, etc.


A system for documenting all safety related airport facilities as well as airport operational and maintenance records. This should include design and construction of aircraft pavements and aerodrome lighting, as well as records related to the maintenance procedures and the operation of the navigation and meteorological equipment installed at or in the vicinity of the airport.

Training and Competency

Personnel competency is a key feature of safe operation. A process and procedures should be put in place for review and evaluation of the adequacy of the training provided to staff on safety-related duties and of the certification system for testing their competency.

Construction Work

The aerodrome operator shall put in place a process, relevant procedures and a system of control measures to enable the incorporation and enforcement of safety-related clauses in the contracts for construction work at the aerodrome. This should include evaluation of projects by the Safety Committee and identification of rectification measures, as necessary.

Further Reading


  • Annex 14 "Aerodromes", Volume I - Aerodrome Design and Operations
  • Doc 9774, Manual on Certification of Aerodromes
  • ICAO Doc 9859: Safety Management Manual, Fourth Edition, 2018
  • ICAO Integrated Safety Management website

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