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AOPA objects to FAA high altitude planAOPA objects to FAA high altitude plan

AOPA has objected to an FAA plan to accelerate reduced vertical separation (RVSM) over the United States. The plan could cost owners of a turboprop or jet aircraft more than $300,000 if they want to continue flying above Flight Level 290. In order to increase system capacity, the FAA wants to reduce vertical separation between aircraft from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet above 29,000 feet (2,000 feet is used today at high altitudes because of the inaccuracy of conventional altimeter systems). While the FAA wants to change the standards by 2004, AOPA wants the agency to stick to a phased introduction plan that would start domestic RVSM above FL350 in 2004, then add the lower altitudes at a later date. (Aircraft owners need to upgrade their altimeters, air data systems, and transponders, plus recertify their aircraft, to fly in RVSM airspace.)

The FAA cited Europe's RVSM changes as reason for accelerating the U.S. schedule. But AOPA noted that Europe doesn't have many GA aircraft, and Eurocontrol doesn't consider GA in developing its air traffic control policies. In its comments to the FAA, AOPA said, "The FAA does not have the luxury of casting aside the needs of a major population segment in order to accelerate its long-term goals. As the finest and most sophisticated air traffic control system in the world, we should not succumb to the limitations of our neighbors, rather we should be pioneers in the development of a system that will effectively accommodate all users.... We should endeavor, collaboratively, to develop an implementation strategy that will not create a burden to a significant number of airspace users." [See also AOPA's comments to Flight Standards and issue brief.]

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