Flight Academy

Enroute Altitudes

Knowing the correct cruise altitude while flying on a specific heading is essential - in both real world aviation and here at AST. For real world aviation, this is part of the rules and regulations that air traffic controllers and pilots alike must follow. Listed below are the current cruising altitudes for the United States. Canada and Mexico, as well as for many other countries around the world. Please take a few minutes to read this important information. 

Altitudes below 18,000 feet

Note: Flights below this altitude can be either VFR or IFR.

VFR

Heading 000-179 (Easterly): Odd thousands + 500ft (3,500 5,500 etc)
Heading 180-359 (Westerly): Even thousands + 500ft (4,500 6,500 etc)

IFR

Heading 000-179 (Easterly): Odd thousands (3,000 5,000 7000 etc)
Heading 180-359 (Westerly): Even thousands (6,000 8,000 10,000 etc)

 

Altitudes above 18,000 feet (FL180)

Note: All flights at or above 18,000 feet are IFR

 

Between FL180-FL290

Heading 000-179 (Easterly): Odd Flight Levels (FL190, FL210, FL230, etc)
Heading 180-359 (Westerly): Even Flight Levels (FL180, FL200, FL220, etc)

 

At FL290 and Above

Heading 000-179 (Easterly): Odd Flight Levels starting at FL290 (FL290, FL310, FL330, etc)
Heading 180-359 (Westerly): Even Flight Levels starting at FL300 (FL300, FL320, FL340, etc)

 

RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum)

Changes were made on January 20, 2005 in the United States, Canada and Mexico allowing 1,000ft separation between aircraft. This is known as RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum). This change created 6 new even number Flight Levels: FL300, FL320, FL340, FL360, FL380 and FL400 for aircraft travelling on a heading between 180°-359° thereby allowing all the odd numbered Flight Levels FL290, FL310, FL330, FL350, FL370, FL390 and FL410 to be dedicated to aircraft travelling on a heading between 000° and 179° in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Prior to the RVSM in 2005, there were no even number Flight Levels above FL290 and the only "officially valid" Flight Levels for the headings that were above FL290 when flying on a heading between 180°-359° were FL310, FL350 & FL390 and for headings between 000°-179° were FL290, FL330, FL370 & FL410.

 

Outline of RVSM (RVSM Implemented on January 20, 2005):
 
For aircraft between FL290 and FL410
HDG 000° to 179° (Easterly): Use Odd Thousands Flight Levels: FL290, FL310, FL330, FL350, FL370, FL390, FL410.  
 
HDG 180° to 359° (Westerly): Use Even Thousands Flight Levels: FL300, FL320, FL340, FL360, FL380, FL400.
 
Above FL410:
HDG 000° to 179° (Easterly): Odd Flight Levels: FL450, FL490, FL530, etc.
HDG 180° to 359° (Westerly): Odd Flight Levels: FL430, FL470, FL510, etc.
 
Information Source: 

www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ato/service_units/enroute/rvsm/