Section 9. Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM)
- RVSM airspace is defined as any airspace between FL290 and FL410 inclusive, where eligible aircraft are separated vertically by 1,000 feet. Additional altitudes provide users fuel savings and operational efficiencies while providing ATC flexibility, mitigation of conflict points, enhanced sector throughput and reduced controller workload.
- RVSM is applied in RVSM airspace over the domestic United States, Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico where the FAA provides air traffic services, the San Juan FIR, across international borders with Canada and Mexico, and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceanic airspace controlled by the FAA. All aircraft operating in RVSM airspace must be RVSM eligible unless they qualify for an exception as listed below.
- The following non-RVSM aircraft are exceptions to the exclusive RVSM airspace, however, access may be approved, workload-permitting:
- DoD aircraft.
- DoD-certified aircraft operated by NASA (T38, F15, F18, WB57, S3, and U2 aircraft only).
- MEDEVAC aircraft.
- Aircraft being flown by manufacturers for development and certification.
- Foreign State aircraft.
- The following aircraft operating within oceanic airspace or transiting to/from oceanic airspace are excepted:
- Aircraft being initially delivered to the State of Registry or Operator;
- Aircraft that was formerly RVSM approved but has experienced an equipment failure and is being flown to a maintenance facility for repair in order to meet RVSM requirements and/or obtain approval;
- Aircraft being utilized for mercy or humanitarian purposes;
- Within the Oakland, Anchorage, and Arctic FIRs, an aircraft transporting a spare engine mounted under the wing.
- Two thousand feet separation must be applied for aircraft transitioning RVSM airspace whenever one of the aircraft is not RVSM eligible.
- Non-RVSM exception aircraft may access RVSM airspace in one of the following ways:
- LOA: Complies with a Letter of Agreement (LOA) for operations within a single or adjacent ARTCCs.
- File-and-Fly: Files a flight plan and makes the initial request to access RVSM airspace by requesting an ATC clearance.
- Facilities with RVSM airspace must:
- Provide guidance in the facility Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for managing non-RVSM flights.
- Where available, display the Center Monitor on the Traffic Situation Display (TSD) in each area and the Traffic Management Unit (TMU). This will aid in the coordination and decision making process for approving non-RVSM flights.
- Ensure all facility directives are current to support RVSM.
- Ensure all LOAs, SOPs, and Sector Position Binders are current to support RVSM.
- Ensure airspace is continually reviewed for impact of RVSM.
- Ensure all height deviations of 300 feet or more are recorded and forwarded to the FAA Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey at NAARMO@faa.gov.
Responsibilities must include but not be limited to the following:
- Maintain an operational awareness of RVSM impact specifically any non-RVSM aircraft being worked within RVSM airspace.
- Ensure proper coordination is accomplished between the STMC/TMU and the operations supervisors/controllers-in-charge regarding the accommodation and handling of any non-RVSM aircraft.
- Ensure, in conjunction with the Traffic Management Officer, that monitor alert values are addressed with RVSM impacts considered.
- Ensure the proper RVSM software is turned on.
Responsibilities must include but not be limited to the following:
- Maintain an awareness of all operational impacts associated with RVSM, specifically any non-RVSM aircraft currently within area sectors or projected to be in sectors under his/her area of responsibility.
- Ensure sector personnel have been properly briefed regarding any known non-RVSM aircraft in or projected to be in sectors under his/her area of responsibility.
- Ensure sector workload remains manageable when non-RVSM aircraft are in or projected to be in sectors under his/her area of responsibility.
- Coordinate all non-RVSM aircraft with operational supervisors/CIC as appropriate, both internally and externally, to ensure the aircraft is coordinated and accepted along its route of flight.
- Non-RVSM Exception Flights Outbound from the U.S. The operational supervisor/CIC from the last area to have communications and operational control of the aircraft in the facility where an aircraft departs RVSM airspace designated for U.S. air traffic control, or exit facility, must coordinate with the international point-of-contact in a timely manner.
- Ensure controllers at applicable sectors have their situation display properly aligned to display the RVSM indicator depicting those non-RVSM.
- RVSM approval is required for aircraft to operate within RVSM airspace. The operator must determine that the appropriate State authority has approved the aircraft.
- DoD, DoD-certified aircraft operated by NASA (T38, F15, F18, WB57, S3, and U2 aircraft only), MEDEVAC, aircraft operated by manufacturers for certification and development, and Foreign State exception aircraft will be accommodated in RVSM airspace on a workload permitting basis.
- Within oceanic airspace or transiting to/from oceanic airspace aircraft being initially delivered to the State of Registry or Operator, an aircraft that was formerly RVSM approved but has experienced an equipment failure and is being flown to a maintenance facility for repair in order to meet RVSM requirements and/or obtain approval; an aircraft being utilized for mercy or humanitarian purposes; and within the Oakland, Anchorage, and Arctic FIRs, an aircraft transporting a spare engine mounted under the wing will be accommodated in RVSM airspace on a workload permitting basis.
- Non-RVSM Exception Flights Inbound to U.S. The TMU at the facility where an aircraft penetrates RVSM airspace designated for U.S. air traffic control, or entry facility, receives the coordination from an international point-of-contact advising of an inbound non-RVSM exception. The TMU must coordinate with the operational supervisor/CIC in a timely manner.
RVSM aircraft will file a “W" in the equipment field of an ICAO flight plan, or a suffix showing RVSM capability in a domestic flight plan (/H, /W, /L, or /Z). NAS automation shows non-RVSM aircraft with a coral box around the fourth character in the altitude segment of the data block. The conflict alert function uses the flight plan indication of RVSM capability to determine the appropriate separation standard to apply.
In areas of known MWA, aircraft operators have been encouraged to report encountering this weather event and the severity of its impact. Operators may request assistance in the form of reroutes, change of altitude, vectors, or merging target procedures.
- Domestic: Aircraft experiencing turbulence can be anticipated to advise ATC and request a clearance for mitigation in the form of vectors, altitude change, or to fly an offset.
- Oceanic: Aircraft experiencing turbulence can be anticipated to advise ATC and request a revised clearance. In instances where a revised clearance is not possible or practicable, the aircraft may fly a lateral offset not to exceed 2NM from the assigned route or track. Advise ATC as soon as practical and return to the assigned route when the offset is no longer required.
- Domestic: RVSM will not be suspended in domestic airspace. Should turbulence or other weather phenomena require, separation can be increased in a defined area and thoroughly coordinated operationally.
- Oceanic: Air Traffic Service providers will consider suspending RVSM procedures within affected areas when pilot reports of greater than moderate turbulence are received. Within airspace where RVSM procedures are suspended, the vertical separation minimum between all aircraft will be 2,000 feet above FL290.