DRVSM Update

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Jan. 20, 2005, is not that far away, only a few months. It will start like pretty much any other day, but by midnight of that Thursday, much of what business aviation operators in the U.S. have come to know may have been turned on its head. No, this has nothing to do with one event planned in Washington, D.C., that day -- the inauguration -- but could be the subject of other events elsewhere in that town. You see, Jan. 20, 2005, in addition to being Inauguration Day, is the date selected by the FAA a few years back on which it plans to implement reduced vertical separation minimums in domestic airspace; DRVSM, it's called. On that date, at 0901 UTC to be exact, any aircraft operating between Flight Levels 290 and 410 in U.S. airspace must be RVSM-compliant. RVSM was first implemented in North Atlantic Airspace in 1997, and is now all the rage over other major areas like Europe. Putting the "D" in DRVSM will, according to the FAA, "provide user and provider benefits in domestic U.S. operations that have been enjoyed since 1997" outside the U.S. RVSM makes six additional flight levels available for operations between FL290 and FL410. It's all about system capacity and making the FAA's job easier. It's also about ensuring that flights between FL290 and FL410 are conducted with aircraft equipped and certified to ensure they can accurately maintain the 1,000-foot vertical separation. For some operators flying older aircraft for which RVSM-compliant equipment and paperwork is not available, though, that chunk of airspace may be closed to them. The FAA, meanwhile, is forging ahead with its plans and has repeatedly stated that there will be no delays in the January 2005 implementation. Most recently, the agency posted some new or revised documents on its DRVSM Web site. Among other recent changes is availability of an FAA notice on DRVSM policy and procedures and other pubs that have been updated to reflect new documents. If you want to operate your aircraft between FL290 and FL410 after January and haven't checked out the FAA's Web site, now would be a good time.