At precisely 0901 UTC on January 20, new operating rules for reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) are planned to take effect in the U.S., southern Canada, South America and Mexico. Depending on your particular situation, you may be anticipating or dreading the event.
For the operators of the more than 6,100 U.S.-registered business jets that have already been approved to fly in RVSM airspace there should be few problems. But operators of the remaining aircraft, as many as 3,800 of them, according to the latest figures from the FAA, could face rerouting or delays, all because they have not paid the price of entrance into the restricted airspace–namely avionics and pitot-system upgrades and, for U.S. operators, a letter of authorization from the FAA.
It is unclear how many more business jets will be approved for RVSM before January 20, but an FAA official reiterated that there are “absolutely no plans” to delay implementation of domestic RVSM (DRVSM) in the U.S. He added that other countries have signaled their commitment to phasing in RVSM on time as well.
In effect over the North Atlantic since 1997 and in Europe since 2002, RVSM reduces the minimum vertical separation between airplanes operating in the upper flight levels from the usual 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet. The floor of RVSM is FL290 and the ceiling is FL410. Upgrades to altimeters and other systems are needed to ensure aircraft can maintain altitude to strict tolerances when operating within RVSM airspace. &nbs