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Advances In Avionics - Rvsm Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum

Oct 25, 2007
Until recently, pilots flying in designated airspace (29,000 to 41,000 ft.) were required to allow a minimum of 2,000 ft. of vertical distance between aircraft. Now, industry advancements have reduced this required minimum distance by half. The new policy has contributed to increased air travel efficiency while creating lucrative new business opportunities for avionics companies that retrofit the necessary RVSM equipment.

The new requirements, known as Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum ("RVSM"), are the result of a 1988 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) study which recognized the technical feasibility of the new, 1000 ft. separation standard. The North American version of the RVSM is known as the Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum ("DRVSM").

January 20, 2005 was the FAA- imposed DRVSM specification deadline for aircraft flying in designated airspace. Since that time, only aircraft flying in domestic airspace that are equipped with appropriate air data systems have been allowed to fly between 29,000 and 41,000 ft. Aircraft that do not comply to the new standard have three primary alternatives to equipping themselves with the required avionics: they have the option to fly below 29,000 ft., they can request permission to pass through the designated airspace on a case-by-case basis, or they can apply for an exemption from the FAA.

The new DRVSM specifications were initially estimated to save the airline industry an FAA-estimated half a billion dollars annually in reduced fuel costs, brought about by giving pilots greater flexibility in setting optimal cruising altitudes. However, with the significant rise of crude oil prices and the subsequent increase in jet fuel prices in the past few years, the actual savings that will be realized due to the DRVSM measure is likely actually much higher than those figures suggest.

DVRSM offers other benefits as well. By doubling the number of available flying altitudes in the most fuel-efficient flying elevations, it will be easier for pilots to receive clearances for step-climbs into these more fuel efficient elevations. Also, it gives pilots additional options for avoiding thunderstorms and other inclement weather situations.

Implementation of DVRSM has also created a huge demand among private aircraft owners to have their aircraft retrofitted with the required air data systems. This resulted in a strong market for planes getting retrofitted with equipment that meets new equipment specifications. Given the initial cost that private bizjet owners face in outfitting their planes with the equipment, it is estimated that at least 1,600 of them did not meet the FAA-imposed installation deadline.

Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum specifications represent an important advance in avionics that is proving advantageous to both the airline industry and the companies that provide retrofitting services aircraft that require it. Bizjet owners that do decide to equip their jets with the necessary avionics will find that they will be able to recoup the additional expenditures in terms of fuel cost savings over the next several years. While flying planes under the DRVSM measure does require that pilots be properly trained in new procedures, pilots of these jets will be satisfied in knowing that they have more options in terms of flying in inclement weather and finding the most efficient cruising altitudes.
About the Author
Craig Stewart is the Director of Investor Relations for Butler National Corporation. Butler National has received FAA group approval for its RVSM program for multiple Learjet planes. Find investor information at: http://www.butlernational.com/
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