The National Academies

ACRP 11-01/Topic 08-01 [Active]

Legal Issues Related to the Implementation and Operation of Safety Management Systems for Airports
[ ACRP 11-01 (Legal Aspects of Airport Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $60,000
Staff Responsibility: Marci A. Greenberger
Research Agency: Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell
Principal Investigator: Peter Kirsch
Effective Date: 6/6/2017
Completion Date: 6/6/2018


In 2001 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) instituted a standard requiring Safety Management Systems (SMS) for international airports.  In 2010 the FAA stated its support for the ICAO SMS standard and began an SMS pilot program for selected U.S. airports.  Some airports have developed SMS programs and are in the process of implementing or operating those programs.  TRB has published several reports that provide airport professionals with valuable background information on SMS. 


ACRP Report 1Safety Management Systems for Airports Volume 1 Overview, for example, provides an overview of SMS and explains how the SMS approach to safety management is intended to benefit both the safety and business aspects of airports.  ACRP Report 1: Volume 2 Guidebook describes in more detail the elements of an airport SMS, and offers guidance in planning, implementing, and operating an SMS.  ACRP Legal Research Digest 19: Legal Issues Related to Developing Safety Management Systems and Safety Risk Management at U.S. Airports identifies legal issues related to developing an SMS at airports. 


In late 2012 TRB published ACRP Synthesis 37 Lessons Learned from Airport Safety Management Systems Pilot Studies.  Synthesis 37 provided a more detailed analysis with SMS as it is developing at U.S. airports.  All of these developments suggest the necessity for a review of the American experience with SMS that focuses on the legal issues (such as tort liability, litigation, and open records) that airports have experienced in implementing or operating SMS programs.



The objective of this digest is to identify legal issues that have resulted from the implementation or operation of SMS programs.  This digest should expand upon the issues identified in the previous publications.


This proposed research would be performed in two phases:  Phase I would survey existing SMS programs and also review existing literature for developing legal issues related to SMS programs.  The contractor would then be required to provide the panel with a short report summarizing the findings and providing an outline for the digest based on the information the contractor has discovered.  Phase II of the research would require the drafting the digest.  Proposers should use prior ACRP publications regarding SMS. 

Research is underway.

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