New minimum vertical distance rules for aircraft flying over North, Central and South America and the Caribbean that have just come into force will lead to less fuel burn, less pollution from engine emissions and overall savings of nearly $6 billion over the next 15 years, according to the United Nations aviation agency.
As of last Thursday, the minimum vertical distance has been reduced by half, to 1,000 feet, from 2,000 feet, at altitudes between 29,000 and 41,000 feet, resulting in more efficient flight, the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced.
“This latest achievement is another significant step forward in ICAO’s global cooperative effort with its contracting states, airspace users and service providers to maximize operational benefits for all concerned, while at the same time ensuring that safety remains our top priority,” ICAO Council President Assad Kotaite said.
The so-called Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) was first implemented in 1997 in the airspace of the North Atlantic and applied successively thereafter over Europe, the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East and in the Europe to South America corridor.
On the same basis of regional agreements, it will be expanded progressively to eventually cover all airspace around the world. The cost-benefit analysis in the North Pacific showed a 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent reduction in fuel cost for a saving of approximately $8 million per year for aircraft using this airspace.
For the Caribbean and South and Central American regions, it is expected that airlines will save approximately $400 million in a 15-year period for international flights alone, while for North America the fuel-saving benefits would be approximately $5.3 billion for the same period.