Travel - September 21, 2017

RVSM airspace Letters of Authorization May Soon Become Unnecessary

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]VSM airspace was created to safely and efficiently allow more aircraft to use a given piece of high-altitude airspace, defined as FL290 up to and including FL410.

Users of reduced vertical separation minimum airspace are breathing a sigh of relief that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Part 91 appears to be moving ahead, a move strongly supported by the NBAA that was part of the FAA’s working group on the subject.

The change will relieve operators of ADS-B equipped aircraft from the need to seek individual letters of authorization from the FAA before operating aircraft in RVSM airspace.

Since RVSM became part of the high-altitude lexicon at the end of 2004, operators have been required to seek individual approval for their aircraft’s altimetry and autopilot systems to ensure the accuracy required to guarantee 1,000-foot vertical separation.

Prior to RVSM, aircraft at high altitudes normally did not fly closer to each other than 2,000 feet vertically when headed in the same direction.

The proposed new section nine to Appendix G of Part 91 would permit aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out systems that meets the equipment performance requirements to 91.227 to operate in RVSM airspace without an LOA or OpSpec outlined in section three.

This change will not, however, absolve flight crews from obtaining the required RVSM training.

International operators will also still be required to maintain an LOA to comply with foreign regulators while traveling abroad.

Without RVSM approval, aircraft were essentially stuck operating at FL280 and below, unless they were capable of climbing above FL410 while meeting certain restrictions.

Aircraft operating below FL290 burned considerably more fuel on any given flight so speeding the approval to use RVSM airspace will certainly save on fuel costs, not to mention the administrative expenses of filing for the LOA.

The comment period to the Part 91 rule change closed September 6, which means the finalization process now begins. The NBAA said, “The new policy will take effect once the rule is finalized, presumably before the ADS-B Out mandate takes effect in 2020.”

The majority of the 16 comments on the Federal Register support the rule change, although they did offer interesting sidebar remarks.

One commenter called the current RVSM approval process “the worst example of pointless bureaucracy,” while another said, “the initiative was already past due.”

A few pointed out that when RVSM emerged over a dozen years ago, the understanding of the accuracy of the technology at that time justified the LOAs.

Another added, “This is a good start, but is not where it should end. If the crew is qualified and the aircraft is RVSM certified and current there should be no LOA at all.”

One benefit to the current LOA process, one commenter said, was forcing operators to be certain “they’d accurately defined operational control of their aircraft. Some are actually not being operated under Part 91 as operators believe.”

By –

Lake Nona Golf & Country Club