...ATC, Pilots, Manufacturers Adapting...

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FAA spokesman William Shumann had a similar report: "Our overall impression is that center controllers throughout our system are pleased with the change and like the flexibility of having more altitudes to offer. Anecdotally, we're hearing that pilots are pleased as well," he told AVweb in an e-mail on Tuesday. "So far there have been no operational errors attributed to RVSM." Walter Desrosier, VP of engineering for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, agreed that it's been a successful transition. "There have been no major bugs or snafus that we've heard of," he told AVweb yesterday. Manufacturers conducting flight testing in the RVSM airspace have had some concerns, but they are being worked out. "Nobody is grounded. Nobody has had any kind of interruption or delay in their flight-testing programs," Desrosier said. "They knew this was coming." He added that some long-term concerns exist about the abundance of flight-testing needs in the airspace at Kansas City Center, but new policies are being worked out to ensure that manufacturers can fly when they need to without stressing the air traffic control system. A last-minute concern that arose over allowing ferry and delivery flights of factory-new aircraft (which don't yet have an owner/operator, and thus no FAA authorization) was resolved, he said.

That's not to say that disgruntled and aggravated RVSM-restricted operators are not to be found. A frustrated Beechjet 400 pilot wrote to AVweb earlier this month that it took his company two years to get its RVSM upgrade OK'd by the local FSDO, and he expected it would take another year to get the required Letter of Authorization from the FAA. "We weren't 'gambling with the FAA's reputation for procrastination' ... [but] we have been bitten by it," he wrote. "We did everything in our power to meet the deadline, but they didn't." Jets banned from RVSM airspace will pay a price in fuel burn and fewer options for avoiding weather. Theoretically they can climb above FL 410 and fly up there if they're able, but in practice those transitions are not likely to be given out by ATC.