Reduced Vertical Separation Minima or Minimum (RVSM) is an aviation term used to describe the reduction of the standard vertical separation required between aircraft flying at levels between FL290 (29,000 ft.) and FL410 (41,000 ft.) from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet (or between 8,900 metres and 12,500 metres from 600 metres to 300 metres in China). This therefore increases the number of aircraft that can safely fly in a particular volume of airspace. The North Atlantic System Groups that implemented RVSM first determined that they were only implementing a change to one minimum from 2,000' to 1,000'; therefore, that minimum being singular the correct terminology is minimum not minima.

Historically, standard vertical separation was 1,000 feet from the surface to FL290, 2,000 feet from FL290 to FL410 and 4,000 feet above this. This was because the accuracy of the pressure altimeter used in aircraft to determine the altitude decreases with height. However over time Air data computers (ADC) combined with altimeters have become more accurate and autopilots more adept at maintaining a set level, therefore it became apparent that for many modern aircraft, the 2,000 foot separation was too cautious. It was therefore proposed by ICAO that this be reduced to 1,000 feet.

Between 1997 and 2005 RVSM was implemented in all of Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia and North America, South America, and over the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. The North Atlantic implemented initially in March 1997 at flight levels 330 through 370. The entire western hemisphere implemented RVSM FL290-FL410 on January 20, 2005.

Only aircraft with specially certified altimeters and autopilots may fly in RVSM airspace, otherwise the aircraft must fly lower or higher than the airspace, or seek special exemption from the requirements. Additionally, aircraft operators (airlines or corporate operators) must receive specific approval from the aircraft's state of registry in order to conduct operations in RVSM airspace.


RVSM flight levels

 to west
(180 - 359)

 to east
(0 - 179)

 FL470 FL490
 FL430 FL450
 FL400 FL410
 FL380 FL390
 FL360 FL370
 FL340 FL350
 FL320 FL330
 FL300 FL310
 FL280 FL290
 FL260 FL270
 FL240 FL250
 FL220 FL230
 FL200 FL210
 FL180 FL190
 FL160 FL170
 FL140 FL150
 FL120 FL130
 FL100 FL110
 FL80 FL90
 FL60 FL70
 FL40 FL50
 FL20 FL30

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