It was 4:45 p.m. on the back nine of a long day. Frankly, I was a bit concerned that I’d embarrass myself taking the King Schools online RVSM pilot’s training course. The $199 course meets FAA requirements for the crew training portion of RVSM certification. John King told me that I should be able to complete it in an hour or less,
but I was skeptical.
First, I’m not a jet pilot. Not just RVSM territory, but all the airspace above Flight Level 290 is rare air to me. How would I be able to handle the questions regarding equipment and crew requirements; in-flight contingency procedures; international RVSM procedures; good RVSM operating practices; and, gulp, the consequences of altitude-keeping errors?
Those are the five segments into which the online course is divided. Each segment has its own sub-directory of subject material. It’s all logically sequenced and easy to follow. Not only did I pass the course–despite a few office interruptions to perform some actual work–but I even learned a thing or two about what complications pilots will deal with after the January 20 introduction of RVSM within the lower 48 states, Alaska, southern Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
As with most aviation training material, from material for the private pilot written to the ATP, the course was a combination of common-sense logic and numbers to memorize. For instance, I learned that if the two primary altimeters disagree by more than 200 feet [memorized], you should check them against the standby altimeter (if the aircraft is so equipped) to determine which primary altimeter is malfunctioning [common sense]. You may then continue flying in RVSM airspace as long as the good altimeter is the one connected to the required altitude-hold and altitude-alert equipment.
In addition to the official-looking certificate I was entitled to print out at the end of the course, I was also able to download a “cockpit card” of fast facts about RVSM operations that would remind me of the gist of what I had learned. The two-Jepp-page-size checklists cover, respectively, regular RVSM operations and in-flight contingencies. The former include minimum equipment requirements; preflight checklist; in-flight checklist and RVSM numbers (starting with 72 hours–the time to submit a flight level deviation form to the FAA, and ending with 2,000 feet–the vertical separation required for non-RVSM aircraft). The latter cover problems maintaining altitude due to turbulence or mountain wave activity; failure of the altitude hold, the altitude alert system or all primary altimeters; failure of one primary altimetry system and indications that primary altimetry systems differ by more than 200 feet. With the card, I could feel confident that I’d have most of the specific RVSM requirements and procedures in front of me for quick and easy reference. That would also ensure that I would have most of them committed to memory pretty quickly.
In summary, the pilot’s training course requirement for RVSM operations is not overly taxing or complex, but it does present an opportunity for pilots to become
more familiar and more comfortable with RVSM requirements and day-to-day procedures.