Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM)

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Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM)

40TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Geneva, Switzerland, 19-23 March 2001

WP No. 102

Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM)


RVSM is planned to be introduced in the ECAC area on the 24th of January 2002 (See Ref 6. And Annex 1) . This Working Paper describes the current status of the programme, possible problems and proposes some items for discussion. The RVSM Programme will provide an additional six flight levels between FL 290 and FL 410 inclusive. This will provide continuous 1000 ft vertical separation in the upper airspace for all the states concerned, between MASPs approved aircraft.

IFATCA currently has a policy on RVSM (ref: 3271 Sep 7).



Note: refer to

In the late 1970s, faced with rising fuel costs and growing demands for a more efficient use of the available airspace, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) initiated a comprehensive programme of studies to examine the feasibility of reducing the 2000 ft VSM applied at FL 290 and above, to 1000 ft VSM.

Planning for RVSM in the NAT Region (Oceanic High Density Airspace) commenced in 1990. The first stage of the Operational Evaluation phase, using the 1000 ft RVSM, began on the 27th March 1997 at and between FL 330 and FL 370 inclusive. A second stage extended the use of RVSM to between FL 310 and FL 390 inclusive, in October 1998. Full implementation is expected to coincide with the implementation of RVSM in Europe in January 2002.

European Air Traffic is very different to that of the NAT Region. The wide variety of aircraft types, high traffic density and the high percentage of climbing and descending aircraft combined with an intricate route structure full of major crossing points, together with multi-State Centres and sectors, ensure that it is a more demanding environment (Continental High Density, with peripheral Transition Airspace to Oceanic and CVSM Continental Airspace) than the NAT Region for the implementation of RVSM.

RVSM Programme and Master plan

RVSM Programme Established

Given the importance of ensuring a co-ordinated introduction of RVSM within the airspace of all European Region States intending to implement RVSM, the EUROCONTROL Agency, acting within the framework of ICAO’s activities in the European Region, established a dedicated RVSM Programme to define, co-ordinate and execute, in close co-ordination with all stakeholders, the activities required to accomplish a timely, simultaneous introduction of RVSM.

Master Plan

The Master Plan of the European RVSM Programme sets out the scope of the work needed to safely implement RVSM at the earliest realistic date and in an efficient manner. It identifies the key activities of stakeholders within the Programme and the scale of commitment to be made by EUROCONTROL and the participating States.

The Master Plan has been developed in consultation with National RVSM Programme Managers, ICAO, JAA, Airspace User Associations, Agency staff and other RVSM Stakeholders. The RVSM Programme will provide an additional six flight levels between FL 290 and FL 410 inclusive. This will provide continuous 1000 ft vertical separation in the upper airspace for all the states concerned between MASPs approved flights.

Safety Assurance

Safety Assurance in the EUR RVSM Programme is achieved through a number of activities. The go-ahead for the implementation of RVSM in European airspace will be based on mainly three aspects:

  • The preparedness of the (40) EUR RVSM participating States;
  • The preparedness of the aircraft operators and;
  • The acceptability of the EUR RVSM Pre-Implementation Safety case consisting of a number of elements, such as:
    • Collision Risk Assessment (numerical risk analysis, applying ICAO safety objectives)
    • Functional Hazard Analysis (to ensure all risk bearing hazards are accounted for in the programme)
    • State National Safety Plan (as confirmation that RVSM is implemented safely from a National perspective)
    • Other EUR RVSM programme elements which ensure that EUR RVSM can be operated safely.

Programme Schedule

  • Start of Height Monitoring Programme 25 May 2000;
  • Monitoring Infrastructure Fully Operational November 2000;
  • Aircraft Prepared for EUR RVSM 31 December 2000;
  • Operators and their Aircraft Approved for RVSM Operations 31 March 2001;
  • Pre-Implementation Safety Assessment July 2001;
  • ATS Providers confirm readiness Aug 2001;
  • Go/Delay Decision September 2001 – Verification Committee; Implementation Date 24th January 2002;
  • Initial Post Implementation Safety Assessment December 2002;
  • Final Post Implementation Safety Assessment December 2004.

IFATCA involvement

From the beginning of the RVSM EUR Programme, IFATCA has been involved with Eurocontrol’s work. This has taken place on a regular basis via our Representative in the Project Steering Group, Dominic Kelly. Two presentations by the Programme Manager, Joe Sultana, were made at the RM in Manchester and Istanbul. Exchanges on specific topics were held with the Programme Management group. At the last RM the European MA’s were requested to nominate a focal point for RVSM issues.

RVSM Manual

The ATC Manual for RVSM in Europe is available from the Eurocontrol website. It is the reference document for the implementation of RVSM with regard to ATC procedures. ATC procedures related to RVSM include all of the following aspects:

  • General Procedures;
  • Procedures for non-RVSM approved State aircraft operating as General Air Traffic (GAT) within the RVSM airspace;
  • Procedures for State aircraft operating as Operational Air Traffic (OAT);
  • Flight Planning procedures;
  • Inter centre co-ordination procedures;
  • Contingency procedures;
  • Transition procedures;
  • Phraseology.

In this manual you’ll find further information about ATC System Support, Military and Training.


6 real-time simulations have already been carried out.

  • RVSM1: Reims/Zürich/Karlsruhe;
  • RVSM2: Hungary;
  • RVSM3: Reims/Geneva/Zurich/Rhine;
  • RVSM4: Transition Turkey;
  • RVSM5: Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland;
  • RVSM6: Transition issues with Cyprus and Greece. Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt.

Sweden has in the context of National activities for the EUR RVSM Programme performed a real-time simulation to study the operation of RVSM within Swedish airspace.

2 fast-time simulations have taken place in:

  • Italy and
  • Reims.

Current status and problems

State readiness

Currently FRY (former Rep. of Yugoslavia) is the only remaining state in red (not ready). There are 14 states currently amber (some problems). And 25 States + Maastricht are green (ready).

Aircraft readiness

Currently 64% of Airframes expected to operate in EUR-RVSM confirmed as RVSM Compliant (approx. 70% of flights). 11200 airframes of which 10000 are potentially flying into the EUR RVSM airspace, 6420 EUR RVSM Compliant (MASPS), 5000 RVSM Approved NAT /PAC.

ACAS/TCAS (ACG 10 ITEM 4-3 Eurocontrol)

The carriage and operation of ACAS II has been mandatory in Europe since 1st January 2000 for all civilian aircraft with more than 30 passengers or with a Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM) of 15,000kg or greater. Due to the late availability of the ICAO SARPS, ACAS II compliant equipment (TCAS Version 7.0), a transition period has been scheduled until 31 March 2001. The mandatory carriage of ACAS II for aircraft with more than 19 passengers or more than a MTOM of 5700 kg is applicable from 1st January 2005. Consequently, during the ACAS implementation transition period and throughout the implementation of RVSM and until 2005, aircraft with TCAS Version 6.04a will continue to operate in Europe. It was thus considered important to both the ACAS and RVSM Programmes for the commencement of studies into the behaviour and performance of both ACAS systems within the RVSM and CVSM environments.

The PSG/7 considered a paper from the RVSM Programme on the dependencies between the implementation date for RVSM and the ability of the ACAS programme as currently prescribed to achieve its schedule for TCAS V7.0 equipage. A delay in the ACAS programme by implication would result in an excessive proportion of V6.04a flights in RVSM airspace. The PSG agreed that if the ACAS transition period for the carriage and operation of V7.0 as currently prescribed within the ACAS programme is extended beyond the RVSM Go/Delay decision in July 2001, then a delay to the RVSM Programme should be considered. There is a need to gather further information as to the numbers of aircraft fitted with TCAS V6.04a that will operate in EUR RVSM airspace.

The ACASA study confirmed earlier views as to the increase in the number of ACAS alerts within RVSM as opposed to CVSM today. The introduction of V7.0 will bring major improvements compared with V6.04a but the report confirms there would be strong similarities to the level of Traffic Advisories (TA’s) and Resolution Advisories (RA’s) experienced today in level band 250- 290. For those operations of RVSM approved aircraft not mandated by the requirement for V7.0 the PSG agreed that those operators should seriously consider the operational difficulties that may be caused when operating with TCAS V6.04a above FL 290 in European RVSM airspace and should be equipped with TCAS V7.0.

The PSG further agreed that one of the prime causes for nuisance alerts is the high vertical speeds as aircraft approach level-off, triggering alerts at adjacent flight levels. There is a need to increase the awareness of controllers and pilots as to the likely increase in alerts within RVSM airspace, regardless of the ACAS version logic fitted.

Controller Training

IFATCA has stressed that it is of outmost importance that Controllers are correctly trained and have undergone awareness programmes with regard to the possible mixed environment TCAS 6.04A and TCAS 7.

ATCO Staff Shortage

Currently there is a lack of controllers of about 10 – 12% in the EUROCONTROL area. IFATCA estimates the shortfall among its membership to be even greater. Currently (for IFATCA MAs, Europe) there are 2500 ATCOs missing out of a total of 22500 ATCOs. The estimated benefits of RVSM (up to 35% of capacity increase) could completely be hampered by the lack of sufficient ATCOs and no new sectors could be opened due to this.

Early tactical RVSM implementation

Austria and Germany will go for early tactical RVSM implementation from 31.3.2001 onwards. IFATCA has raised serious concern with regard to training, national Safety Cases. Close liaison with the German and the Austrian MA has taken place. Ireland and UK will go for an extension of the current NAT area to the whole UK and Irish airspace subject to the National Safety Case (planned introduction on the 31.03.2001).

Exempted non-RVSM approved State aircraft

EUROCONTROL estimates that some 100 aircraft would be flying as exempted state aircraft per day, in the whole area. Results of the RVSM 3 and 5 real-time simulation have shown that there is an increase in these specific areas of 120% of air miss due to exempted state aircraft. The ATCOs participating at the simulation reported that it was nearly impossible to handle such aircraft.

Contingency plan in case of reversion to 2000ft separation

It is possible that RVSM be suspended on a strategic and tactical level in an area due to 3 forecasted weather phenomena, or for a single aircraft experiencing equipment failure. No harmonised co-ordination plan for a Flight Allocation Scheme e.g. for the Alpine region has been established so far.


The EUR RVSM Programme is planned to be introduced on 24th January 2002. Subject to the Safety Case, the State readiness, the airframe readiness the go/delay decision will be taken in July 2001.

IFATCA remains concerned with issues like training, safety cases, impact of exempted non- RVSM State Aircraft, military issues, lack of ATCOs, system upgrades and the impact of the mixed TCAS 6.04A and TCAS 7 environment.

IFATCA has been associated with RVSM related work from the beginning and continues to monitor the work currently being conducted by Eurocontrol on behalf of the ICAO NAT/EUR office and the ECAC.

It is recommended that:

Exceptionally, State aircraft may be accepted when appropriate procedures have been evaluated and validated, and controllers are trained in the operation of a mixed-traffic environment. If non MASPS (e.g. military) State aircraft are required to operate in RVSM airspace then, in order to preserve system safety, their number should be kept to the absolute minimum.

IFATCA is opposed to any derogation, mitigation or exemptions such as non-RVSM equipped State aircraft and aircraft not meeting ACAS II(TCAS version 7.0) requirement except in co- ordinated contingency emergency situations.


Area of Implementation

FIRs/UIRs where RVSM will be Applicable in the EUR RVSM Airspace

Amsterdam, Ankara, Athinai, Barcelona, Beograd, Berlin, Bodo, Bratislava, Bremen, Brindisi, Brussels, Bucuresti, Budapest, Canaries (AFI Region), Casablanca, Dusseldorf, France, Frankfurt, Hannover, Istanbul, Kaliningrad, Kobenhavn, Kishinev, Lisboa, Ljubljana, London, L’viv, Madrid, Malmo, Malta, Milano, Munchen, Nicosia, Odesa, Oslo, Praha, Rhein, Riga, Roma, Rovaniemi, Sarajevo, Scottish, Shannon, Simferopol, Skopje, Sofia, Stavanger, Stockholm, Sundsvall, Switzerland, Tallinn, Tampere, Tirana, Trondheim, Tunis, Varna, Vilnius, Warszawa, Wien, Zagreb.

Transition tasks associated with the application of a 1000 ft Vertical Separation Minimum within the EUR RVSM airspace will be carried out in the following FIRs/UIRs:

Ankara, Athinai, Barcelona, Bodo, Canaries (AFI Region), Casablanca, France (Marseille), Kishinev, L’ viv, Madrid, Malta, Nicosia, Odesa, Riga, Rovaniemi, Simferopol, Tallinn, Tampere, Tunis, Vilnius, Warszawa.

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 12, 2020   934   Jean-Francois Lepage    2001    

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