Many Not Ready For DVRSM
Well, the goal was to open up more room on the busiest high-altitude airways, but this wasn't exactly the effect envisioned by Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DVRSM). As of Jan. 20, aircraft flying between FL 290 and FL 410 will be separated vertically by 1,000 feet instead of the current 2,000 feet. That effectively doubles the number of airways (nice, but we always thought airports were the real chokepoints in the airspace system). The catch is that to use the tighter confines, aircraft must be equipped with up-to-date electronics. The FAA says only about 50 to 75 percent of private jets and turboprops that use the high-level airways are compliant and more than 10 percent of airliners don't have the upgrades. In some cases, owners simply aren't willing to spend the $20,000 to $160,000 necessary for the upgrades on obsolete aircraft that are going to be retired soon. However, some operators apparently got caught gambling with the FAA's reputation for procrastination and incompetence in implementing new technology. They figured the FAA wouldn't meet the Jan. 20 deadline (that's when Canada, the Caribbean and South America will also switch to RVSM) and didn't need to rush into spending the money. Well, they lost that bet and the new altitudes will go into effect as scheduled. Any plane not compliant will have to either accept the fuel penalty of flying below FL 290 or try to get above FL 410. The latter, while possible, won't always be easy. ATC will not issue clearances for stepped climbs and continuous climbs won't likely be possible in crowded areas like most of the eastern half of the country.