The Regional Airline Association has urged the FAA to expand its consultations with airlines on domestic reduced vertical separation minimums (DRVSM) to include regional jet operators “to enable an accurate assessment of the costs, benefits and impact on regional airlines.” In a comment to the FAA’s rule proposal, submitted August 8, RAA recommended that the agency amend the rule’s implementation date to ensure that RJs in the U.S. can legally operate in DRVSM airspace (see page 1).
RAA technical affairs director Dave Lotterer expressed confidence that most of the new regional jets flying in U.S. airspace can comply rather easily with the new rule, however. “The big issue is whether they have pneumatic altimeters or not,” said Lotterer. “Most of them do not.” Exceptions include Air Wisconsin’s 17 BAe 146s, whose steam-gauge cockpits do not use air-data computers. As for turboprops, only the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400s at Horizon Air typically fly above FL 290, and those airplanes feature modern cockpit equipment. However, the potential for further crowding below FL 290 could present a problem for turboprop operators, said Lotterer, because major airlines will not likely modify their aging DC-9s and MD-80s, forcing those airplanes into airspace typically frequented by turboprops.