According to an FAA Advance Notice the Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM) will go into effect at 0901 UTC on January 20, 2005. In order to operate between Flight Levels 290 and 410 and take advantage of the 1,000 foot vertical separation, as opposed to the current 2,000 foot separation, operators will need to install equipment that meets the higher tolerance requirements of the DRVSM rule (e.g. altimeters, autopilots, altitude alerters etc.) The higher tolerance equipment is necessary to ensure aircraft safety when operating at the reduced separation.
The rule affects the airspace of the continental U.S., Alaska, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico High Offshore Airspace and the San Juan ICAO Flight Information Region. Operators who wish to fly through this airspace will need an appropriate letter of authorization from the FAA and an aircraft that complies with FAR Part 91 Appendix G Section 2. Without the authorization, the RVSM airspace will only be available upon request for lifeguard, certification development, military or foreign state aircraft operations, or when the pilot intends to climb or descend through RVSM airspace or for an emergency.
Given the FAA’s current refusal to grant exemptions to the transponder rule that went into effect earlier this year, it is likely that this same approach will be taken with respect to operators seeking exemptions for operations beyond January 20, 2005. As a result, operators whose aircraft do not currently meet the rule’s equipment requirements should schedule their maintenance upgrades early to ensure that their aircraft will be RVSM compliant well in advance of the effective date.