Despite setbacks, Europe will stick with January RVSM start

 - October 4, 2007, 6:00 AM

Eurocontrol has confirmed it will definitely proceed with next year’s January 24 deadline for implementation of reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) in European airspace. The new 1,000-ft separation will apply between FL 290 and FL 410. Noncompliant aircraft (regardless of their state of registry) will be excluded from these flight levels.

All business aircraft manufacturers are now urging operators to stop procrastinating over the modifications required to meet the requirements. Evidently, many operators have been holding out for yet another postponement of the RVSM deadline.

On September 20, the verification committee appointed by the Eurocontrol provisional council said that all outstanding conditions for the “RVSM pre-implementation safety case” had either been met or there were measures in place to overcome remaining obstacles by the January deadline. The committee decided sufficient numbers of aircraft had been monitored by ground stations and that enough of them had been found to be RVSM compliant. It also concluded that the operational effect on air traffic below FL 290 would be acceptable.

However, having monitored some 7,000 aircraft, Eurocontrol has decided that nine aircraft types have not met the “group height-keeping requirement.” The agency has advised national aviation authorities and they may now withdraw RVSM type certification for all aircraft of the following types: the Citation 560; Falcon 50 and Falcon 200; Embraer ERJ-135 and ERJ-145; the Ilyushin Il-76 and Il-86; and Antonov An-124.

Eurocontrol RVSM program manager Joe Sultana told AIN that the manufacturers concerned have been informed of the failure of their types to achieve the group requirements. He predicted that the airframers would quickly be able to  address the issues raised in cooperation with certifying authorities.

CESSNA
According to Cessna, Eurocontrol’s inclusion of the Citation 560 (V and Ultra) on the list was based on data from a single aircraft that had not yet been upgraded with the RVSM Service Bulletin (SB) for the type. It explained that six of the 13 data collections taken from the aircraft had been done before completing installation of the SB in January last year.

Cessna told AIN that recalculation of the 560’s performance data has since established that the model definitely meets Eurocontrol’s requirements. “Cessna is in the process of formally responding to Eurocontrol to clear up this situation and possibly develop a process that would prevent invalid data being included in their calculations in the future,” it noted.

In any case, operators of older Cessna Citations will have just a few weeks to complete modification work required to meet the RVSM deadline. According to the U.S. manufacturer, the SB for the Citation V was set to be released at press time, with those for the Citation II and S/II  expected to follow this month followed by the Citation I paperwork next month.

European operators have been leaning on Cessna to be more precise about the release dates for the RVSM SBs. There have been complaints from independent modification shops about the airframer’s insistence that only factory-owned or factory-approved service centers will be permitted to handle the work.

Steve Ayling, sales and support manager for the factory-approved CSE Citation Centre at Bournemouth, UK, admitted to AIN that it will not be able to complete all necessary work by the January deadline and that installations will run at least through March or April next year. There are some 250 of these Citation 500 Series “legacy” aircraft in Europe, and around 34 of them are in the UK. Ayling said the most urgent cases are those operated by executive charter firms, which are pushing hard to get a firm date for the SB releases.

CSE, which is part of the BBA Group, has taken “multiple orders” for RVSM modifications. Ayling said it is preparing to devote one of its two hangars exclusively for this work and will be bringing in additional personnel to cope with the backlog.
Cessna has its own European Service Center at Paris Le Bourget Airport. In addition to CSE, there are four other factory-approved facilities in Europe. Citation product manager Mike Pierce admitted that there would be insufficient capacity at these facilities to meet the January 24 deadline.

Peter Harland, managing director of UK independent modification company Avionicaire, suggested that Cessna’s policy of restricting the RVSM SB to factory-owned or -approved service centers was anti-competitive and disruptive to the operations of Citation customers. As a member of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s RVSM steering committee, he said that his firm had decided not to pursue its own supplemental type certificate (STC) out of concern that the CAA would not accept it. In his opinion, many operators are also nervous about the effect that a third-party STC may have on an aircraft’s value.

According to Harland, manufacturers that restrict RVSM SBs to their own service centers are guilty of “restrictive business practices,” which have caused confusion and worry among operators. He said that long delays by manufacturers in getting the SBs approved and published have led to customers looking at STCs offered by third-party modification shops.

The Cessna SB for RVSM is based on a new Honeywell air data computer (ADC), as well as new altimeters and Vnav controllers. The Citation V also requires new static ports, which are expected to cost $89,000.

EMBRAER
The inclusion of the ERJ-135 and ERJ-145 regional jets on Eurocontrol’s list of aircraft not meeting “group” approval requirements has proved to be frustrating to Embraer. The company had just completed RVSM certification for both models by Europe’s Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), only to find that this had been rescinded at the request of Eurocontrol.

Embraer executive v-p of airline marketing Fred Curado told AIN that Eurocontrol had used different test criteria from the JAA to determine that the ERJ-135 and -145 models were not RVSM compliant. The Brazilian manufacturer sought to persuade Eurocontrol to alter these criteria but has now accepted that it will have to live with them.

To overcome the problem, Embraer is now proposing short- and long-term solutions. Initially, it would provide new calibration charts for the flight manuals to allow crews to recalibrate their ADCs to meet the Eurocontrol height-keeping criteria. The company is also preparing to permanently recalibrate all the computers. Curado said he was confident the revised compliance plan will be in place before the end of January.

Raytheon Aircraft
In the Raytheon camp, the Hawker 800XP is RVSM compliant from delivery. The manufacturer intends that the new Hawker Horizon,  which recently began flight testing, will also be fully compliant when it is certified in 2003.

According to Sam Bruner, Raytheon’s director of air vehicle analysis and integration, the company is close to completing an RVSM modification that will be standard on new-production Beechjet 400As from S/N 300 (output is currently at around S/N 280). The SB for aircraft already delivered is now available and consists of little more than some equipment inspections and changes to the flight manual.

The entry-level Premier I is currently undergoing RVSM certification and the group approval for the type is expected to be granted by January. The process is largely confined to document verification.

For the King Air family, Raytheon now has an SB in the works that should be ready by next spring. The aircraft will require new equipment, including a second altimeter.
Older Hawker 700s that do not have an ADC will be fitted with the air data display unit developed by U.S.-based company Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S). The cost of this package is $126,000.

Later Hawker 700s and early 800s have Rockwell Collins ADCs, though they need to be substantially upgraded. The modification cost for both types runs $91,000.
The installation work will take approximately three to four weeks. Since the RVSM solution is to be approved on an individual aircraft basis, another week is required for testing. RASL has its own CAA-approved design organization.

Dassault Falcon Jet
According to Dassault Falcon Jet service engineer Karl Eisenmeneger, all new production Falcons are now being built to RVSM standards. Of the out-of-production models, the Falcon 20 has an SB out that had achieved FAA and JAA group approval before the Eurocontrol ruling that the aircraft did not meet group standards. At press time, the manufacturer had yet to formulate a response to AIN on this development. The Falcon 10 has not yet achieved group approval.

Referring to RVSM modification work for all business aircraft types, Eisenmeneger acknowledged that there is a problem of service center capacity because so many new technical requirements have hit the industry at once. He added that the evaluation process for older aircraft has also proved to be time consuming. Dassault’s response has been to make STCs available to any competent service center to speed up the RVSM installation rate.

Bombardier Business Aircraft
Focusing its RVSM efforts first on its widebody business jet products, Bombardier achieved approval for the Challenger 604 in December 1996. Group approval for the Canadair Regional Jet (including corporate-configured versions and the Special Edition version) followed in May 1998. The earlier Challenger 600 and 601 models have had an SB available since March 1997, and the bulk of the fleet has now been modified.
Group approval for the Global Express was completed this past January. The super-midsize Continental will be RVSM compliant when it enters service in 2004.
Bombardier has completed the RVSM group approval process for its Learjet 31A, 35, 36, 45 and 60. STCs and SBs are available for these models (except for the 45, which is compliant at delivery), and all modification work has to be performed at one of the manufacturer’s seven service centers (six are located in the U.S. and one resides in Berlin, Germany).

Group approval for the Learjet 31 is set to be completed before the end of next month, following flight tests that will be concluded this month. The new air data systems included in the STCs are already available and installations are in progress before the group RVSM approval for the type being granted.

The Learjet 31 SB calls for two new Honeywell digital altimeters and ADCs, or an update to the existing computers for those aircraft already equipped for the TCAS II (traffic collision avoidance system) requirement. The mod also includes a standby altimeter, an analog interface unit and an ADC switching panel.

The air data equipment installation STCs are now available for the Learjet 55, 55B and 55C. Group approvals for these three models are anticipated next month.
Learjet 35 and 36 group approvals have been in place since August. Bombardier is now working to have special versions of the aircraft, such as those fitted with camera and fuel pods, included in the STC.

Current-production Learjet 60s are RVSM approved from delivery. The midsize bizjet was the first to meet the standard in June 1997. The SB covering the earlier examples (S/N 2 through 113) is now available.

The cost of the STC and SB installations for the various Learjet models ranges between $33,000 and $195,000. Downtime for the work runs between three and 25 days.

Gulfstream
Current-production GIV-SPs and GVs are fully RVSM compliant. According to the Savannah, Ga. manufacturer, these two aircraft models do not require any testing or certification.

As of last month, around 20 GIIs/IIBs built with Honeywell’s SP-50G autopilot have been retrofitted by Gulfstream with RVSM-compliant systems supplied by IS&S. Additionally, about 120 GII, IIB and III business jets supplied with the SPZ-800 autopilot have had their ADCs and altitude alert systems upgraded to meet RVSM standards.

The SP-50G-equipped aircraft require an air data computer, an altitude alerter, dual altimeters and dual mach/airspeed indicators. Each pair of altimeters and airspeed indicators acts as an independent air data computer, providing triple sources of altitude data, exceeding the RVSM requirement for dual sources.