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Celebrating 20 years of Reduced Vertical Separation

20 years anniversary of RVSM

The introduction of RVSM, the programme that transformed airspace usage above FL290, was one of the biggest and far-reaching changes ever made in European airspace.

20 years ago, 41 States supported by EUROCONTROL implemented a programme to reduce the vertical separation minima between aircraft from 2,000ft to 1,000ft above 29,000ft (FL 290). Allowing aircraft to operate safely with less separation decluttered flight levels and allowed more aircraft to operate at their preferred flight levels and routes, playing a crucial role in increasing capacity, reducing delays, and lowering fuel consumption – helping make over the years flying much more efficient and sustainable.

“The introduction of RVSM was a huge success story made possible by the close cooperation between thousands of dedicated operational stakeholders in 41 countries. This anniversary reminds us what we can do and that there is still a lot more to be done as we, the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and our operational partners, strive to utilise European airspace to its fullest potential in order to reduce delays and lower the environmental impact of flights.”

The change was implemented not only by EUROCONTROL’s 31 Member States at that time, but by 41 States in total agreeing to trust in the programme and implement RVSM in their airspace. European rollout took 3 years of preparation, following decades of research, including successful prior implementation in the North Atlantic (NAT) ICAO Region.

Implementation involved training and preparing controllers from 41 countries, and pilots and flight planners from 2,300 operators - a huge and ambitious undertaking. The RVSM programme went live at 00:01 UTC on 24 January 2002 across the 41 States, with air traffic controllers allocating aircraft to the new flight levels using EUROCONTROL-designed systems and procedures. The simultaneous switchover happened smoothly, and traffic swiftly adjusted to the new standards.

The six additional flight levels created by RVSM between 29,000 feet and 41,000 raised airspace capacity by up to 20%.

Learn more about the European agency for RVSM monitoring