RVSM

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Introduction

RVSM airspace was introduced throughout Europe in January 2002. It has also been implemented in North America, South America, Australia, Middle East, Africa, Parts of Asia and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

RVSM means Reduced Vertical Separation Minima - or in plain english the reduction of the vertical separation required between FL290 and FL410 from 2000ft to 1000ft. By doing this you double the amount of airspace available, therefore doubling the traffic capacity. With the skies getting busier and busier every day the need for more room has become more and more important.

In the real world aircraft must have the following equipment aboard to be RVSM certified and therefore take advantage of the reduced separation minimum:

  • Two primary altitude reporting systems;
  • One automatic altitude-keeping device;
  • One altitude-alerting device.
  • In addition, while changing altitudes, the altitude holding device must not overshoot an assigned level by more than 150 feet.
  • Also, to gain certification for RVSM, each aircraft must overfly a stationary Height Monitoring Unit (HMU) or a portable Ground Monitoring Unit (GMU) unless flight test evidence can be supplied to the regulator that the airframe is compliant with Altimeter System Error (ASE) targets. Aircraft who do not meet the standards are excluded from RVSM airspace except for the purpose of climbing or descending to/from the CVSM airspace above FL410. (Exceptions do exist though, see bottom of page for complete listing.) In the real world this was a costly affair for operators who still had older aircraft in their fleet. On IVAO there isn't much to it, as any aircraft can be considered RVSM, or non-RVSM. There are however a few important procedures for pilots and ATC to follow. They are detailed below.

    Altitudes

    RVSM Airspace
    West Track East Track
    Even Altitudes Odd Altitudes
    4000 5000
    6000 7000
    8000 9000
    10000 11000
    12000 13000
    14000 15000
    16000 17000
    FL180 FL190
    FL280 FL290
    -------------------- --------------------
    FL300 FL310
    FL320 FL330
    FL340 FL350
    FL360 FL370
    FL380 FL390
    FL400 FL410
    FL430 FL450
    FL470 FL490
    FL510 FL530

    Guidelines

    All pilots operating within RVSM airspace are to comply with the following guidelines:

  • Pilots flying RVSM certified aircraft are expected to file altitudes appropriate for the direction of flight in compliance with the previous table.
  • The equipment suffix W shall be filed in the flight plan to indicate RVSM certification.
  • Autopilot must be used to maintain altitude in level cruise flight. Manual trimming of the aircraft is not acceptable. If the autopilot does not work or the altitude hold mode is known to be inaccurate, the aircraft will be considered non-RVSM, and therefore not allowed into RVSM airspace. The equipment suffix "W" is not to be used on such aircraft.
  • If a pilot notices his aircraft is unable to accurately maintain altitudes with the autopilot altitude hold he/she is to consider the aircraft as not up to RVSM standards and notify ATC at once. This applies regardless of whether the aircraft is already in, or cleared to enter RVSM airspace. ATC may instruct pilots of such aircraft to leave RVSM airspace if traffic requires.
  • Pilots are to report any encounters with turbulence greater than moderate. By its nature, severe turbulence means that control of the aircraft is affected, and RVSM procedures can no longer be maintained.

    Exceptions

    There are a few exceptions which may allow a non-RVSM certified aircraft to operate with RVSM exclusionary airspace. For those who do get clearance into it, the following rules apply:

  • RVSM certified aircraft will receive priority for altitude assignment over non-RVSM aircraft. (see example above)
  • Vertical separation of 2,000 feet will be maintained between non-RVSM aircraft and all other aircraft.
  • Aircraft wishing to climb or descend through RVSM airspace are to be granted clearance provided they do not level off within RVSM airspace, should maintain a normal rate of climb or descent (no cruise climbs/descents allowed).
  • Aircraft used by military, police and customs services are exempt from RVSM certification requirements, do not require advance approval, and will be provided with 2,000 feet separation from all other aircraft in RVSM airspace.