Higher, Cheaper: RVSM Certifying the Super-Hornet
It’s a seemingly small change. Allow US Navy F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets to cruise between 29,000 and 41,000 feet, where the thinner air would save the US Navy several million dollars per year in fuel costs – $250,000 for each of their qualifying Super Hornet squadrons. Unfortunately, that’s where passenger airliners fly, an altitude band called “Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum” (RVSM) airspace. Even worse, in 2005, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reacted to congestion by reducing RVSM separation, but compensated by requiring dual-altimetry systems to minimize the odds of catastrophic error. That rule neatly eliminated almost all military fighter jets.
A US NAVAIR release describes the 3-year process that led to RVSM airspace certification for the 340 Super Hornets produced in Production Lot 22 and beyond. Certification efforts for other Hornet family aircraft are also proceeding, including the F/A-18F-derived EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, and smaller Navy/USMC F/A-18 A+, C, and D Hornets.