May 14, 2012

For US business aircraft operators, compliance with Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) standards has involved properly equipping the aircraft, completing the necessary training and finally obtaining the proper FAA authorization. The approval to operate in RVSM airspace comes in the form of an FAA Letter of Authorization (LOA) if you are an FAR Part 91 operator or an Operations Specification (OpSpec) if you are a certificated operator, flying under Part 135, for example.

While initial height monitoring was required as part of the process to obtain an LOA, recurrent height monitoring was not required for flights within the US. However, with the adoption of RVSM standards around the globe, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) established standards to ensure consistency and safety in RVSM airspace. In order to comply with these standards, FAA implemented a recurrent height-monitoring program for all operators planning flights in RVSM airspace.

In May 2011, the FAA established requirements that operators must monitor their RVSM capability in one of several different ways. This must be done six months after RVSM authorization and again each 1,000 hours of flight time or two calendar years – whichever is longer. The recurrent monitoring must be completed by November 18, 2012.

“You have to have a way to track it,” noted Lucille Fisher at Quality Resources, LLC, a Richmond Heights, OH company that helps aircraft operators meet and maintain high standards in operational documentation. She is also vice chair of NBAA’s Domestic Operations Committee.
In the United States, RVSM monitoring requirements can be met by simply flying over any one of four Aircraft Geometric Height Measurement Element (AGHME) Constellations. They are located in Atlantic City, NJ; Cleveland, OH; Wichita, KS; and Phoenix, AZ. Additional AGHME sites are expected to come online soon.

After completing the “US Operator Application for RVSM Monitoring,” which is posted on the NBAA website, all an operator has to do is flight plan a route through an AGHME coverage area at FL290-410 and follow the appropriate procedures. The flight is automatically recorded by the FAA. The results are available on the RVSM Approvals web page.

But completion of these tasks is not enough, Fisher cautioned. You still have to prove that you are in compliance.

“We recommend you print out that approval page and keep it in a book where your LOA is. Be systematic by creating a way that you can check each year to make sure you’re in compliance,” Fisher suggested.

If flying over an AGHME coverage area is not practical, operators can also contract with an FAA-approved company to conduct a monitoring flight with a portable GPS-based Monitoring Unit (GMU) on board the aircraft.

Regardless of which way an operator chooses to comply with the new monitoring requirements, Fisher warned that the FAA is watching.

“Being systematic about it helps keep you from making an inadvertent mistake. While it’s very straightforward, people often don’t have a good way of keeping track,” she said.

For more information, review NBAA’s Web Resource on RVSM Monitoring.