Tupolev and BAe 146 airliners face being banned from certain European airspace altitudes when reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) standards are introduced, because they may not comply with the strict height keeping criteria in time.

An industry source says that Tupolev has "not responded" to Eurocontrol's upgrade requirements needed for the aircraft to meet the RVSM minimum aviation systems performance specification (MASPS).

There are around 250-300 Tupolev Tu-134s and 154s operating in European airspace on a daily basis. Europe's RVSM programme will involve the introduction of 1,000ft (300m) vertical separation standards above flight level 290 (29,000ft) in the continent's airspace from 24 January 2002.

Before the introduction of RVSM, Eurocontrol must make a "safety case" using a height monitoring programme by monitoring passively (from the ground) the majority of each of the aircraft types operated by airlines wishing to use RVSM airspace. Eurocontrol has set a deadline of March next year for all aircraft to be compliant. "If they're not ready by then, we can't carry out a full safety assessment, which means there may be a possible delay in RVSM introduction," says the source.


The BAe 146 is also affected because it has older generation avionics which require a major upgrade to meet RVSM standards. BAE Systems has an upgrade available at a cost of around £50,000-£60,000 ($70,000-$84,000) per aircraft, an amount which smaller airlines are likely to find hard to justify. Failure to upgrade the 146 would leave operators paying an extra £5,000 per year in fuel costs by being forced to fly at lower non-RVSM levels.

Source: Flight International