Alaska Seaplanes Gets FAA Nod for Safety Management System

 - March 23, 2022, 7:16 PM
Alaska Seaplanes director of operations Sean Kveum conducting a preflight of a Pilatus PC-12 in Sitka, Alaska (Photo: Heather Holt)

Alaska Seaplanes, a Part 135 charter operator based in Juneau, announced that the FAA recently accepted its safety management system (SMS). According to the agency, the company became the third Part 135 in Alaska and one of only 32 in the U.S. to clear the necessary hurdles for SMS program acceptance.

The FAA and NTSB have been encouraging the use of SMS among Part 135 operators, and the Safety Board included it in its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List. Defined on the FAA website as a “formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls,” SMS is comprised of a detailed series of modules requiring operators to address adherence to risk management procedures. In the case of Alaska Seaplanes, the process took more than two years.

“We’ve been working through this for a long time,” Dan Corson, the company’s director of safety and compliance, told AIN. “Now, I’m looking forward to mining the data and spending time with the numbers to learn more about what we can do.”

Alaska Seaplanes flies year-round, conducting more than 300 scheduled flights weekly during its summer season, in addition to charters and tour flights. Its fleet is comprised of land and sea aircraft, including Cessna Grand Caravans, Pilatus PC-12s, and De Havilland Beavers. While some parts of the SMS did not apply to Part 135—cabin crew references, for example—management found the process afforded them an opportunity to review the operation in deep detail.

The safety risk management (SRM) aspect of the SMS, in particular, requires that operators must consider specific individuals and processes that accomplish safety goals, rather than issue vague assertions about risk mitigation. “It’s an accountability process,” said Corson, “plus anytime you change your operation with new equipment or new routes, etcetera, the SRM serves as a predictive tool for the company to use.”

Alaska continues to be plagued by a higher number of aircraft accidents than other states, and its aviation infrastructure lags behind the Lower 48. In the FAA’s recent Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative, where improvements to weather reporting and IFR operations dominated participant discussion, SMS warranted little attention. But on its website, the FAA notes that SMS recognizes “the organization's role in accident prevention.”