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ADS-B broadens access to reduced-separation airspaceADS-B broadens access to reduced-separation airspace

Operators of general aviation aircraft that fly in the flight levels are expected to benefit from a new FAA rule that cuts through red tape to allow appropriately equipped aircraft to fly with reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM).

Starting Jan. 22, the rule eliminates the requirement for operators to apply for RVSM authorization “when their aircraft are equipped with qualified ADS–B Out systems and meet specific altitude keeping equipment requirements for operations in RVSM airspace,” the FAA said in a published notice.

Above Flight Level 290, RVSM permits 1,000 feet of vertical separation between aircraft in lieu of the standard vertical separation of 2,000 feet, adding airspace capacity and availing aircraft of more efficient flight profiles. 

The FAA adopted the rule recognizing that “enhancements in aircraft monitoring” have resulted from use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out, it said, and in response to aircraft operators' requests for relief from the cost burdens associated with the RVSM application process.

AOPA supported the change, noting during the public comment period that RVSM’s benefits would not come at a safety cost.

The FAA put its agreement with GA’s position on record, noting that it “has determined the current fleet of RVSM approved aircraft consistently meets FAA established safety standards.”

“The FAA agrees with the commenters that the general aviation community will obtain significant benefits from this action, including that the rule takes an important step in removing an approval process that is no longer justifiable as pilots equip with advanced NextGen technology,” it added.

Provisions remain in effect for operators to pursue RVSM authorization for aircraft not equipped with qualified ADS-B Out systems.

Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security, said AOPA will continue to work with the FAA and industry groups to leverage ADS-B to increase the benefits for GA operators who equip with ADS-B—required by Jan. 1, 2020, for operating in airspace where a transponder is now required.

One request AOPA has made to the FAA is removal of the 24-month test/inspection requirement for transponders in ADS-B-equipped aircraft. “Data has been provided to the FAA to show the reliability of digital transponders that we think supports a safety case,” he said. The 24-month inspection was a consideration when systems were primarily analog, but they are more reliable today. AOPA has also provided estimates of cost savings for aircraft owners that support the suggestion.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Aircraft Regulation, NextGen, Flight Planning

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