The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to change the Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) authorization process by eliminating the need for U.S.-registered operators to apply for RVSM authorization when their aircraft meet altitude-keeping requirements and are equipped with qualified Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out systems.
The FAA has been a major force in the implementation of RVSM since it was first introduced in 1997. RVSM reduced the vertical separation between aircraft above 29,000 feet from a minimum of 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet. This saves fuel and increases airspace capacity. RVSM airspace has now been implemented worldwide.
Currently, operators must prove their aircraft design satisfies RVSM performance requirements and that they have policies and procedures for the safe conduct of RVSM operations, before the FAA approves their RVSM authorization. Until recently, they also had to have a separate program to maintain RVSM systems and equipment. The FAA granted authorizations to operate in RVSM airspace only after finding that the pertinent requirements were met.
The proposed changes for RVSM authorizations would allow the FAA to leverage the technology in ADS-B Out systems to monitor altitude-keeping performance on RVSM-capable aircraft whenever they fly in U.S. ADS-B airspace. Properly equipped aircraft could conduct RVSM operations immediately, lowering costs and eliminating the delays associated with application processing. ADS-B becomes mandatory for aircraft operating in most U.S. airspace on January 1, 2020.
The current RVSM approval process would still be available for operators whose airplanes do not routinely operate in airspace where the FAA has sufficient ADS-B data to determine RVSM performance, or when a foreign country requires a specific approval.