Congressman decries DRVSM

 - August 6, 2008, 5:37 AM

Charter operators and flight departments that are still searching for ways to cope with the FAA’s proposal to implement domestic reduced vertical separation minimums (DRVSM) rules gained some welcome assistance last month from Capitol Hill.

Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, complained in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget that the high compliance costs of the FAA’s proposed DRVSM rules could harm air charter operators and small flight departments. In the August 8 letter, Manzullo, a pilot, asked the OMB to send the final DRVSM rule back to the FAA so that the agency can develop “alternatives that implement DRVSM without unduly burdening small businesses involved in general aviation.”

Scheduled to be implemented in January 2005, DRVSM would reduce vertical aircraft separation between FL290 and FL410 from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet, requiring upgraded equipment and testing for thousands of U.S.-registered airplanes. While the rule is intended to save the airlines billions of dollars in fuel costs over the next decade, some business aircraft operators have argued that DRVSM could put them out of business.

The FAA has already signed off on the rule, which is now under review at the OMB. If the regulation is sent back to the FAA for further study, it could delay DRVSM implementation by several months or longer, a prospect that pleased the National Air Transportation Association, whose members include Part 135 operators.

“NATA has challenged for some time the FAA’s process to implement DRVSM, believing the agency neglected proper rulemaking procedures,” said NATA president James Coyne in a statement.

Manzullo’s letter argues that the FAA neglected to account for a “significant number of small businesses” that could be affected by the rule, including Part 135 on-demand charter companies and business aircraft operators. “This failure to consider an entire class of entities,” wrote the congressman, “constitutes a fundamental flaw in agency compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act.” Passed in 1980, the act requires federal agencies to prepare analyses that seek simpler, less burdensome ways for small businesses to comply with potentially costly federal requirements.