SMS Pro Aviation Safety Software Blog 4 Airlines & Airports

What is a Gap Analysis in Aviation SMS Programs?

Posted by Tyler Britton on Jan 17, 2017 6:05:00 AM

What is a Gap Analysis Used For

What is gap analysis in aviation SMS programsBoth new and experienced aviation safety professionals sometimes have to ask themselves, what is a gap analysis and why am I using it?

The first thing anyone needs to understand about a gap analysis is that it is a process. This process is used by aviation service providers to determine:

  • The current state of the SMS program;
  • The desired state of the SMS program; and
  • Where the “gaps” between those states are.

The desired state of existence should be to comply with your civil aviation authority, such as ICAO. Depending on your preference in the aviation industry, your gap analysis will begin with a gap analysis model, such as the FAA or IS-BAO.

These models are made up of different sections, each with questions regarding the safety of your operations. Gap analysis can gain more depth by also including “custom” safety goals for the desired state of existence that expand on the compliance goals given by your aviation authority.

How a Gap Analysis is Performed

Gap analysis are first performed by choosing a model, such as:

All models are not created equal. For example, the IS-BAO model is fairly cursory, and will be better used as a sort of “speed gap analysis” rather than an in depth inspection of your SMS program. Each model contains a whole set of questions about the safety program, which are broken up into separate categories such as:

  • Policies
  • Organization
  • Hazard identification system
  • Investigation competency
  • Records management
  • Risk analysis abilities
  • SMS documentation
  • Development of safety objectives and safety goals
  • Risk management capabilities
  • Safety training
  • Safety promotion

A gap analysis model may cover more territory than one person can reasonably handle at your organization. While performing a gap analysis, a safety manager can assign sections or “chunks” of the gap analysis to subject matter experts within the organization. In general, a score is assigned to each question on a 1-5 scale:





No Action

No Action has been taken on this required element.


Action Initiated

Identified actions have been taken to meet the requirement but the actions are not complete.



Identifiable actions are satisfactory to meet this requirement and are observable in policies, procedures, organizational actions, and employee actions.



This required element of an SMS has been integrated with other SMS elements and requirements within the organization.


Evaluated and Sustained

This required element has been integrated with other SMS Elements. Additionally, this element has been subjected to at least one prior round of evaluation/audit and there is evidence that the required actions have been sustained over time. Further, there are no identifiable reasons why sustainment should not continue.


State of the Art

Conformance with this requirement of the standard is considered state of the art; they could be used as a benchmark for other organizations to use.


Purpose of a Gap Analysis in Aviation SMS Programs

A gap analysis is essentially a self-audit against a best-practice standard. Completing gap analysis will provide a road map for:

One of the extremely useful facets of a gap analysis is that the above points are useful on:

  • A large scale “overview” of the SMS program; and
  • A micro scale assessment of individual parts of the program.

This is true because after a gap analysis is performed, a company can see how an SMS program is functioning on the level of categories, as well as individual items. Individual items that receive low scores will need to be addressed, and categories with low scores may need to be inspected or investigated further.

Why Gap Analysis are Performed

There are several reasons why gap analysis are performed:

  • Identify how well implemented your safety program is;
  • Be able to adequately plan for future aviation SMS implementation;
  • Track and document continuous improvement of the SMS program; and
  • Discover inadequacies (i.e., “gaps”) in your safety program.

Remember that in smaller airports SMS programs and airline SMS programs that the safety manager will probably perform the gap analysis. However, in larger and more complex organizations, the SMS manager will most likely delegate parts of gap analysis to subject matter experts.

You will find the following free checklists very useful for preparing for gap analysis:

Download ICAO Gap Analysis Checklist

Download TC Gap Analysis Checklist

Download FAA Gap Analysis Checklist

Topics: 3-Safety Assurance

Site content provided by Northwest Data Solutions is meant for informational purposes only. Opinions presented here are not provided by any civil aviation authority or standards body.



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