The FAA and its counterpart agencies in Canada and Mexico this week agreed to proceed as planned with the joint implementation of reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) beginning January 20. That means owners will have to have to get their aircraft certificated for RVSM to fly at Flight Level 290 and above.
"In addition to the aircraft RVSM equipment requirements, operators also need a letter of authorization (LOA) from their local FAA flight standards district office (FSDO)," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of certification policy. "Waiting until the last minute isn't a good idea. Procrastinators can expect delays."
RVSM changes the vertical separation between aircraft at high altitudes from 2,000 to 1,000 feet. That increases airspace capacity, and it has become the worldwide standard.
But aircraft need special equipment, including two very accurate and expensive altimeters, and RVSM certification to fly at these altitudes with the reduced vertical spacing. That's because a standard altimeter is not accurate enough in the thin air to ensure pilots remain at precisely the required altitude.
AOPA had argued for a phased implementation of RVSM in domestic U.S. airspace, beginning at the higher altitudes, to allow more time for turboprop owners and owners of older jets to make the expensive conversion. The FAA, however, opted to implement RVSM for all flight levels to maintain "harmonization" with the rest of the world.
September 30, 2004