Bizav bests airlines on RVSM compliance

 - November 2, 2007, 6:42 AM

The surprisingly high number of business aircraft that now comply with reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM)–and the number of service centers that are offering RVSM avionics installations–could mean that most operators will be ready for the new airspace standards by the domestic RVSM (DRVSM) compliance deadline of Jan. 20, 2005, according to figures released by CSSI, one of the companies that offers RVSM altitude monitoring and engineering services.

About 3,700 business jets, or 41 percent of the total U.S. fleet, are RVSM compliant–for the moment beating even the level of airline compliance. Although the FAA has no plans to delay implementation as many would like, the January 20 start date is predicated on the FAA’s calculated assumption that on that date 85 to 90 percent of flights in the airspace between FL290 and FL410 will be conducted by RVSM-compliant airplanes.

If this assumption is not realized, then and only then is the FAA expected to delay implementation.

As more aircraft become RVSM compliant every day, the less urgent seem to be the calls by aviation pilot and trade groups to delay implementation. In fact, one organization that petitioned for a delay received member feedback saying the company had just gone to the expense of making its aircraft RVSM compliant and therefore the organization should stop trying to get the FAA to push back the rule.

Trade groups such as AOPA and the National Air Transportation Association protest that the FAA’s analysis of RVSM costs and benefits didn’t properly consider all general aviation aircraft that operate routinely above FL290. The FAA argues that its analysis did in fact consider all users, including air taxis and business jets that account for 16 percent of all IFR aircraft handled by ATC. That said, the FAA estimates that between 2002 and 2016 the cost of compliance for all operators will be $869 million. These costs are associated with avionics upgrading, pilot training and flight monitoring.

According to the FAA’s analysis, assisted by CSSI, the fuel savings and ATC routing benefits between 2005 and 2016 are projected to amount to $5.3 billion by the airline, GA and military fleets combined. In the first year of DRVSM operation alone, these savings are predicted to total $393 million.

CSSI has been conducting regional DRVSM operator seminars for the FAA throughout the country. There have been five so far and another is scheduled in February in Dallas.

CSSI also assists the FAA in keeping its RVSM/ DRVSM Web site up to date. CSSI director of airspace analysis and modeling Bob Miller told operators to look for two changes soon to be posted. The Caribbean and South America RVSM implementation target has been moved up to Jan. 20, 2005 and Japan and Korea now plan to implement RVSM later in 2005.

Miller also noted that RVSM in the airspace above the Middle East and Asia south of the Himalayas remains on schedule for implementation this month–November 27 to be exact.