Under new regulations that became effective on January 22, 2019, Part 91 operators now have a path to authorization for RVSM operations without the need for a Letter of Authorization (LOA). Aircraft meeting the equipment requirements of Part 91, Appendix G, Section 9, which includes ADS-B OUT, may be operated under Part 91 by pilots with sufficient knowledge of RVSM requirements, without first obtaining an LOA from the FAA. This change allows for operations in RVSM airspace immediately, eliminating the delay associated with the LOA application process.
Aircraft Operated under this new section are subject to limitations on altimetry system error, and must have their height-keeping performance monitored. The FAA recently updated its guidance clarifying that this monitoring must be accomplished by having the initial RVSM flight in airspace where the FAA can collect the ADS-B data, and thereafter flying in that airspace at least once every 24 months. The airspace where the FAA can collect the ADS-B data can be found here: https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/programs/adsb/coverageMap/. Operators should check and confirm that their aircraft have been monitored as required, by visiting the FAA altitude-keeping performance website at: https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/separation_standards/naarmo/.
When an LOA Might Still Be Required
Even if an aircraft and operator qualify to use the new section, there may still be instances where going through the process to obtain an LOA is necessary. One of the main examples is operating outside of U.S.-controlled airspace. In the guidance, the FAA notes that certain foreign countries may still require a specific authorization under ICAO Annex 6. As a result the FAA states that operators intending to conduct Part 91 RVSM operations outside of U.S.-controlled airspace must still obtain authorization via an LOA.
Lori McGee is a Partner with the aviation law firm of Jetstream Aviation Law, P.A. and counsel clients on the acquisition, financing and operation of corporate jets operated under Part 91 and Part 135 of the US Federal Aviation Regulations. Jetstream Aviation Law can be found at www.JetstreamLaw.com.