LABACE 2005: RVSM arrives in Latin America with few glitches

 - November 1, 2006, 4:51 AM

Latin America adopted reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) on January 20, along with the rest of the Americas, and the transition to date in Brazil has been relatively smooth, according to national officials.

“There were no major problems on January 20,” said Saulo Jose da Silva of Brazil’s Department of Air Traffic Control.

But “no problems” doesn’t mean complete compliance. Estimates are that only about 15 percent of all aircraft in Brazil were RVSM certified on January 20. Brazilian authorities reported that there have been several instances in which non-RVSM-certified aircraft have entered airspace between FL290 and FL410 without permission. The result has been the suspension of the pilots’ licenses and “steep fines” for the owners of the aircraft.

“There has been a lot more demand for RVSM equipment since January, and we expect 50 percent of the business aircraft fleet to be certified by the end of the year,” said Irineu Vieira Bueno, president of Lider Signature. Bueno said he has heard complaints about RVSM, primarily from operators of older aircraft. He added, “Some owners will wait for less expensive technology, but others won’t bother [to comply].”

On the other hand, he said, the new regulations could serve as a catalyst for people to trade in their older models for newer aircraft that are less expensive to bring into compliance or that already comply with RVSM regulations.

The problem of RVSM-certified pilots is yet another issue. In January, Brazil’s Department of Civil Aviation found that many pilots had yet to receive the required RVSM training. Initially, said Jose da Silva, “A lot of pilots were still confused about how to operate within 1,000-foot vertical separation. That problem has now been solved and Brazilian air traffic is managed much better than it was.”

While aircraft operating to RVSM standards are given priority to use the airspace between FL290 and FL410 in Brazil, the country has temporarily adopted a “non-exclusionary RVSM policy,” meaning that, when possible, air traffic controllers will allow other aircraft to operate above FL280 in less congested regions of the country. According to Daniel Torelli, a consultant for Aerogrips in São Paulo, all non-RVSM aircraft must nevertheless file a flight plan to operate below FL280. Non-RVSM-compliant aircraft that are flying internationally will not be allowed to fly in RVSM airspace.

The non-exclusionary policy will end on July 1, at which point RVSM will be strictly enforced.