RVSM Overview

In 1997 the FAA issued a Final Rule establishing requirements for operations of U.S.-registered aircraft in airspace designated as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) airspace. RVSM refers to airspace between flight level (FL) 290 and FL 410, with assigned altitudes separated by a minimum of 1,000 feet rather than the 2,000-foot minimum separation currently required above FL290. The regulations ensure that operators and their aircraft are properly qualified and equipped to conduct flight operations while separated by 1,000 feet, and ensure that compliance with the RVSM requirements is maintained. This amendment makes more tracks and altitudes available for air traffic control to assign to operators, thus increasing efficiency of operations and air traffic capacity.

For detailed information on the implementation of RVSM in US airspace – or Domestic RVSM (DRVSM) – review the following references:

NBAA Part 91 RVSM Operational and Maintenance Templates

Updated Oct. 20, 2011

Updated Part 91 operational and maintenance templates have been issued to assist operators in developing an RVSM manual for FAA approval and Letter of Operational Authorization (LOA).

The templates are based upon FAA Airworthiness Safety Inspectors’ evaluation instructions. They provide a starting point to operational and maintenance approval, but should not be considered an FAA-approved document.

These templates meet the requirements of Handbook 8300.10, Change 16, Vol. 2, Chapter 5 (2 MB, PDF), which enhanced AC 91.706, Appendix G and the 91-RVSM Interim Guide.

When finalizing and submitting an RVSM manual for FAA approval, operators must: tailor the manual for their operation, fully understand the manual’s contents, and maintain the manual in conjunction with airworthiness compliance regulations. Once approved, the operator must note “accomplished in accordance with Operators Approved RVSM Manual” on an aircraft’s return to service following any maintenance event or inspection.

Background on DRVSM

In the May 10, 2002, Federal Register, the FAA published the long awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM) as docket number FAA-2002-12261. The proposed date of implementation is December 2004. Industry comments on the NPRM must be submitted on or before Aug. 8, 2002.

On Aug. 8, 2002, NBAA submitted comments to the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM). NBAA reiterated its concern, expressed in a comments to the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM). NBAA reiterated its concern, expressed in a June 29, 2001, letter to the Administrator, that it will be difficult for the industry to have their aircraft equipped and qualified by the projected implementation date of December 2004.

The FAA released a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Feb. 28, 2003, regarding implementation of Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (DRVSM). The Agency is adding a proposal to implement RVSM between flight levels 290 and 410 in Atlantic High and Gulf of Mexico High Offshore airspace and in the San Juan Flight Information Region. The FAA also intends to remove the proposed option that would have permitted Part 91 turbo-propeller aircraft to operate in DRVSM airspace with a single RVSM-compliant altimeter.

On Oct. 27, 2003, the FAA released the Final Rule on RVSM in U.S. domestic Airspace. The Final rule allows the use of 1,000-foot vertical separation at certain altitudes between aircraft that meet stringent altimeter and autopilot performance requirements. The rule also requires any aircraft that is equipped with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System version II (TCAS II) and flown in RVSM airspace to incorporate a version of TCAS II software that is compatible with RVSM operations, stating that if you operate an aircraft that is equipped with TCAS II in RVSM airspace, “it must be a TCAS II that meets TSO C–119b (Version 7.0), or a later version.” It should be noted that there is no requirement to install TCAS to operate in RVSM airspace.