Vertical separation refers to the vertical separation between jet charter aircraft flying in the same airspace. In order to avoid collisions and issues arising from wake turbulence, aircraft must maintain a minimum safe distance while traveling in the same vicinity.
Air traffic controllers continually monitor their airspace to keep track of aircraft flight paths. They do this ensure aircraft maintain sufficient separation, which includes:
- Vertical separation
- Lateral separation
- Longitudinal separation
Assigning Flight Levels
Unlike motor vehicles, which travel on a single plane, jet charter aircraft can fly at different altitudes. This allows air traffic controllers to assign aircraft with specific flying altitudes, commonly known as flight levels. This greatly enhances the margin of air charter safety.
The level of vertical separation depends on the type of airspace an aircraft is travelling in. For instance, for aircraft traveling in either Class A (altitudes between 18,000 feet and 60,000 feet) or Class B (near major airports) airspace, they must be vertically separated by air traffic control.
In general, jet charter aircraft must maintain a minimum of 1,000 feet of vertical separation when flying between ground level and 29,000 feet. For higher altitudes, that increases to 2,000. However, air traffic control can reduce it to 1,000 feet if both aircraft have collision-avoidance systems.
The use of vertical separation also depends on whether a plane flies using instrument flight rules (IFR) or visual flight rules (VFR). Jet charter aircraft fly almost exclusively using IFR, which requires vertical separation from air traffic control.