The FAA implemented RVSM regulations in January 2005 to double the number of available flight levels between FL290 and FL410. RVSM approval is optional. No special FAA approval is needed to fly above or below RVSM airspace. But practically speaking, lack of RVSM approval means less desirable routings from ATC and costly additional fuel burn.
Step 1: Certifiable Aircraft
The first step to getting RVSM approval is identifying whether your airplane is equipped for RVSM flight operations. Proof of RVSM capability is stated by the manufacturer in the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), or as a supplement to the AFM. If you have an older aircraft, it may have been upgraded with RVSM equipment via an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) or a Service Bulletin. If so you would likely have a supplement to the AFM addressing RVSM operations. If your airplane was not RVSM compliant from the factory, and has not been upgraded, you can contact the manufacturer to see if they offer an RVSM solution for your model.
Step 2: Prepare RVSM Manual and FAA Application Package
The second step is preparing an application package for submission to the FAA. Part of the application requires developing an RVSM operations program and an RVSM maintenance program. These programs, along with supporting aircraft and pilot documentation must be submitted to the FAA for review. Unfortunately, there is no standard form of RVSM manual that will work for all FAA inspectors. Jet RVSM Services has worked with every FSDO/IFO in the United States and is familiar with variations in requirements between different FAA offices.
Step 3: Pilot Training Documentation
Part of the RVSM application process is providing proof of RVSM pilot training. For operators of single pilot rated airplanes, at least one pilot must have received RVSM training through an FAA accepted course. If the aircraft is dual-pilot rated, at least two pilots must have received such RVSM training. You can receive RVSM training at a Part 142 facility, such as FlightSafety or SimuFlite. King Schools offers an online RVSM training program that is self-paced, (www.kingschoolsonline.com). Please note that not all FAA offices accept non-Part 142 training certificates. We advise you to contact your Principal Operations Inspector to verify acceptable training courses. After completion you receive a training certificate to send to the FAA for proof of completion.
There is no written FAA rule for recurrent RVSM pilot training. However, your FSDO may require RVSM training every 24 months as part of the approval of your RVSM Operations Program in your application package. If your RVSM training certificate is more than 24 months old, the FAA may also require you to take another RVSM course.
Step 4: FAA Review
After submitting a complete application package to the appropriate FAA office, the office manager or operations supervisor will assign two inspectors to review the information submitted. An operations inspector will review the operations portion of the application, and an airworthiness inspector will review the maintenance portion. As a general rule, the FAA has 60 days to review an RVSM submission. However, this is not an enforceable requirement and there are situations where the FAA has taken many months to review a manual. The timeframe for final approval varies depending mostly on FAA inspector availability and how well the manual conforms to the inspector’s requirements for a proper RVSM manual and application package. Local FAA inspectors commonly have unique requirements (even within a single FSDO or IFO). Do not be surprised if changes are required in the text of your RVSM manual. Jet RVSM Services works with your assigned inspector to make any required modifications to meet your specific situation.
Step 5: FAA Approval
For Part 91 operators, the FAA issues RVSM approval as an OPSS automated Letter of Authorization (LOA). Part 135 operators will receive Operations Specifications (OPSPEC). RVSM approval is not region specific. FAA RVSM approval for an N-registered aircraft is valid for worldwide RVSM flight operations.
RVSM approval in the United States does not expire once granted, but it can become invalid. For example, if the operator relocates its principal base of operations, the operator must notify the FAA. Similarly, if the person responsible for RVMS compliance changes, the operator must also notify the FAA. Since the approval is written for a specific aircraft and specific operator, if the airplane is sold, leased or otherwise operated by any person or entity other than the operator named in the LOA or OPSPEC, the new operator will need to go through the RVSM approval process with his or her local FAA office. These FAA requirements are listed on the approval documentation and must be followed by the operator.
Step 6: Height Monitoring Flight
Within six months of RVSM approval, you must complete an RVSM height monitoring flight on your aircraft (unless a flight has been completed already within the acceptable timeframe). Beginning May 18, 2011, there is a recurrent requirement for RVSM height monitoring flights every 24 months or 1,000 flight hours, whichever is longer.
There are two options for satisfying height monitoring requirements. The first option is to overfly one of the AGHME locations in the US, Canada or Europe. These are ground based units currently located in the US in Phoenix, AZ; Cleveland, OH; Wichita, KS and Atlantic City, NJ. The airplane is simply flown over one of these sites at an RVSM level (a lower RVSM level is better). There is no charge for this flight and the ground based AGHME will do the work. Unfortunately there is a chance that the flight will not be captured by the AGHME and must be repeated.
The second option for compliance is a GMU (GPS-based Monitoring Unit) flight. A Jet RVSM Services technician can fly onboard your aircraft with a GMU box, which is an FAA-owned GPS unit independent of your aircraft system. The airplane must be flown level at any RVSM altitude for thirty minutes while the GPS records the necessary flight data. This method is guaranteed to capture enough data and produce a result. Please contact Jet RVSM Services if you would like a quote for this service. Travel can be arranged within the US or internationally.
Step 7: Continuing Compliance
To ensure continued compliance with RVSM requirements, you’ll need to keep your RVSM manual and FAA approval document onboard the aircraft. You must maintain your airplane in accordance with your FAA approved RVSM Maintenance Program and the manufacturer’s Airplane Maintenance Manual (AMM). Each manufacturer or STC holder has slightly different requirements to keep your airplane RVSM compliant. Typically, the air data system, pitot-static and transponder checks (FAA 91.411 and 91.413) are due at either 12 or 24-month intervals depending on the manufacturer requirements. The AMM may also list inspections such as a visual inspection of the RVSM critical area around the static ports to ensure no damage such as paint chips or dents are present. Or it may also require a check of the RVSM critical components to make sure the parts actually installed on the airplane match the approved parts list.