According to the Flying Guide | Step Climbs and Cruising Altitudes, a cruising altitude is the en-route phase of flight where an aircraft usually spends the majority of any flight. The altitude can vary due to a variety of factors including:
- Direction of flight (what heading)
- Length of flight (short flights will tend to cruise lower)
- Airspace or airway restrictions
- Technical defects
In order to know if you’re in an RVSM airspace, you must actually know what it is first. It’s airspace is defined as FL290 to FL410. When you’re IFR in an RVSM airspace, if your heading is 360 – 179 degrees, you should be flying at an odd altitude. Some examples include FL330, FL350, FL370 etc. If your heading is 180 – 359 degrees, you should be flying at an even altitude such as FL320, FL340, FL360 etc.
As for the VFR side of things, the requirements must be met first in order to fly VFR. According to 14 CFR § 91.155 – Basic VFR weather minimums, under 10,000 feet you must have at least 3 statute miles of visibility. To fly VFR above 10,000 feet, you must have at least 5 statute miles of visibility. To determine what altitude you should be flying at, if your heading is 360 – 179 degrees, you should be flying at odd altitudes with an extra 500 ft added. Some examples include 1500, 3500, 5500, etc. If you’re flying a heading of 180 – 359 degrees, you should be flying at an even altitude with an extra 500 ft. Some example for these would be 2500, 4500, 6500, etc.
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