FAA Issues Advance Notice Of RVSM Changes

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The FAA has issued advance notice of its plans to implement Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (RVSM) at 0901 UTC on Jan. 20, 2005. The RVSM program allows vertical separation to be reduced from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet between Flight Levels 290 to 410 (inclusive), which the FAA says will allow aircraft to safely fly more optimum profiles, gain fuel savings, and increase airspace capacity. Aircraft must be equipped with altimeters, altitude control systems (autopilots), and altitude alerters that meet RVSM performance tolerances, and operator maintenance and operations programs must incorporate RVSM policies and practices. Implementation is planned for the airspace of the lower 48 states of the United States, Alaska, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico High Offshore Airspace (including Houston and Miami Oceanic airspace), and the San Juan ICAO Flight Information Region. On the same date and time and at the same flight levels, Canada and Mexico are planning RVSM implementation. An update for the Aeronautical Information Manual with details of the new rules is expected to be published later this year. Interestingly, the thousands of single-pilot, six-seat jets that are now in development, and scheduled to enter the airways over the next few years, are designed to fly at altitudes up to 41,000 feet -- so that increased airspace capacity might come in handy.