Yesterday a Head Office NOTAM reminded us of the beginning of RVSM in Canadian Domestic Airspace.
050005 CYHQ OPS
CYHQ WEF 0501200901
OPR ARE REMINDED OF THE EXPANSION OF REDUCED VERTICAL SEPARATION MINIMUM (RVSM) FL 290 TO FL 410 INCLUSIVE THROUGHOUT CANADIAN DOMESTIC AIRSPACE.
Our hallowed Air Navigation Orders prescribe 2000' separation between opposite direction aircraft at FL290 and above. Eastbound aircraft are assigned flight levels 290, 330, 370, 410 and so on, with westbound aircraft passing in between them at flight levels 310, 350, 390, 430 and so on. These days there are so many aircraft in the skies that flights can incur delays waiting for a chance to merge into those highways in the sky. Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible to fly extremely accurate tracks and altitudes, so Canada has made the transition to Reduced Vertical Separation Minima or RVSM.
Now traffic above FL290 has only a thousand feet of separation, so that flight levels 290, 310, 330 and 350 are all eastbound and the previously unoccupied flight levels 300, 320, 340 and 360 become authorized for westbound flight. The transition is a bit like repainting the lane markings on Highway 401 so as to create more lanes of traffic closer together, with the additional wrinkle that some westbound lanes become eastbound.
Fortunately there are several factors at work making the transition smoother than it would have been had they tried it on the roads in greater Toronto. Aircraft at and above FL290 in Canada are all under air traffic control, and must be certified as capable of maintaining RVSM standards. As the Nav Canada press release points out, RVSM has been operating safely in more congested areas for some time. The relative absence of teenagers driving Camaros makes up for the fact that almost all of the vehicles are driven by old guys wearing hats.