Sept. 14, 2017

NBAA supports a proposed rule and supporting advisory circular that would eliminate the need for operators to obtain a special authorization for operations in reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) airspace.

“This is a natural progression of RVSM operations,” said David Norton, partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP and former industry chair of the Process Enhancement Team that spearheaded changes to streamline the RVSM authorization process in 2013. “Operations in RVSM airspace are now commonplace, and technology allows the FAA to monitor the height-keeping performance of aircraft in real time.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) states that qualified ADS-B Out equipped aircraft will no longer need to apply for an RVSM letter of authorization (LOA) or operations specification (OpSpec), a process that has caused business aircraft operators headaches for two decades. Even though the burden of receiving an LOA/OpSpec was reduced in 2013 and again in 2016, many operators have still complained of lengthy delays and administrative burdens.

The new policy will take effect once the rule is finalized, presumably before the ADS-B Out mandate goes into effect in 2020.

“The change is expected to provide significant savings to operators by both reducing the time and cost in putting together separate application packages for each operator, as well as the extra fuel expense those operators face while waiting for their applications to be processed,” explained Norton. “Not having authorization to operate in RVSM airspace causes operators to fly at low, inefficient altitudes, adding extra stops and extra costs to trips.”

Appendix G of Part 91 outlines the requirements for operators seeking an LOA or OpSpec to operate in RVSM airspace. Because this is the only place in the FARs that references RVSM, the change will affect commercial and non-commercial operators alike.

The proposed new Section 9 to Appendix G would permit aircraft equipped with an ADS-B Out system that meets the equipment performance requirements of Part 91.227 to operate in RVSM airspace without the LOA or OpSpec outlined in Section 3. Pilots will still be required to go through RVSM training, and operators will have the option to seek an approval under Section 3, as they do today, to comply with foreign airspace requirements.

The NPRM says that once the rule is final, the FAA will mail a letter to inform operators that their approval will automatically transition from a Section 3 authorization to a Section 9 authorization. However, operators that conduct international operations will have the option to maintain their current Section 3 approval.

“It will be important for those operators that conduct international operations to maintain the LOA or OpSpec to comply with requirements of foreign regulators while traveling abroad,” emphasized Norton.

Review the notice on the proposal.