How the World's Busiest Airport is Meeting SMS Regulations

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport claims the title as "the busiest and most efficient airport in the world." Offering nonstop service to more than 150 domestic and 70 international destinations, ATL also holds the distinction of being the first airport in the world to serve more than 100 million passengers in a single year. It also meets passengers’ shopping, dining, and service needs through a concessions program that features more than 300 commercial venues.

An airport of this size requires a robust and flexible Safety Management System (SMS). ATL has used TADERA’s Airport Safety & Operations Compliance System (ASOCS) since 2009, and in late 2021, it began work to integrate TADERA’s Safety Management System (SMS). Today, ATL uses SMS software to comply with regulations, and to report and mitigate safety issues before they become costly.

"The SMS we’ve developed with TADERA has improved efficiency, ensured compliance, saved costs, and of course, made our airport safer," said Scott Ayers, the Aviation Safety Management System Manager at ATL.

Customized to Provide Rich Data

Ayers says rich data is essential to a robust SMS program, and this system delivers.

"The flexibility of TADERA’s SMS allowed us to standardize data collection across the entire airport and ensure we are collecting rich data to drive KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)," he said.

Ayers and his team went through an exhaustive exercise to standardize the data elements on all the SMS forms – such as for Foreign Object Debris (FOD), Hazardous Material Spill, Work Orders, Notice of Violations, and Wildlife – so that each has the same drop-down hierarchy and nomenclature. Standardizing data collection in this way allows ATL to spot trends and make informed decisions quickly and easily.

"We identified every location on the airport, both airside and landside along with security locations, to create a comprehensive list – from the primary location down to deeper and deeper levels of detail," said Ayers. "We’ve listed every access road and every gate. It’s been a real game-changer."

Powering Proactive Risk Management

With ASOCS and SMS seamlessly integrated, all data comes together through an online dashboard that allows Ayers to make fast, well-informed decisions.

"Airport executives are relying on SMS managers to tell them what’s going on at the airport and the associated risks. This system enables me to tap into an abundance of data to tell that story," said Ayers.

Not long ago, ATL experienced a series of surface incidents including several runway incursions. Ayers used the SMS for risk assessment, documentation, and mitigation efforts. The system guided him along a process through which he identified hazards, saw existing controls, analyzed risks, and ultimately choose mitigation efforts.

"The SMS showed us that tug drivers were crossing the zipper marking in a certain area, ending up in an active taxi lane," he said. "The system helped us assess the risk and decide on the appropriate mitigations, which included installing surface painted signs, low profile barricades, and lamps. And records of these projects – including photos, status, comments, costs, and funding sources – are accessible through ASOCS. It makes it easy to track the mitigations to make sure they’re working."

Real-Time Management

Ayers uses the SMS to track and manage reports in real time. He can document hazards, update their status, and assign staff to complete investigations. This has been especially valuable for FOD management: with SMS, his team can break down FOD by type, location, and type-by-source to better target mitigation efforts.

Integrated for Real-Time Accuracy

SMS reporting can be enriched through integrations with outside data feeds. For ATL, Notice of Violation (NOV) reports include companies operating at the airport kept up to date through their credentialing system, allowing them to report on violations by company. This integration allows ATL to manage violations, tracking them by type, company, and individual. The SMS is also integrated with Microsoft Power BI, an interactive data visualization software product.

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