“5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate,” says Boeing and Airbus. Women in the flight attendants’ world are calling greed on the telecom sector which they say cares nothing about public safety.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA head Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg on New Years Eve for a delay of up to two weeks in the start of C-Band 5G communications. Currently that delay will extend to a week from tomorrow for AT&T and for the month in the case of Verizon, according to some FPMag sources.
There has been considerable pushback from the telecom carriers which have been adamantly accused by the Airline Attendants union of putting money ahead of public safety. Verizon and AT&T at first rejected the US government’s request to postpone the rollout of C-Band spectrum 5G service.
A letter to the US government from the leaders of Airbus and Boeing aircraft manufacturers references research by Airlines for America which found that if the FAA’s 5G rules had been in effect in 2019, a closer to normal period for which airline statistics are known, some 345K passenger flights and 5.4K cargo flights would have faced delays, diversions or cancellations. The data is staggering, the aircraft makers claim.
The FAA Aviation Safety Bureau has issued a warning to pilots called, “Risk of Potential Adverse Effects on Radio Altimeters” See:AIR-21-18. Such airworthiness directives are not to be ignored and are only issued when there is a clear and present danger, say pilots FPMag spoke to about this issue.
(Bias note: Editor Micheal John is a Canadian ten-thousand hour commercially licensed Canadian pilot (YZD/YZC155425) on fixed and rotary winged aircraft and has familiarity with radar altimeters but also a proclivity to agree with the Airline Pilots Association and the FAA on safety issues.)
There seems to be a legitimate concern that 5G transmitters will endanger the lives of passengers aboard heavy aircraft carrying hundreds of passengers in areas where terrain is a challenge and in the instances where collision avoidance, wind shear detection, and auto landing systems rely on radar altimeter systems aboard an aircraft flight.
The Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics has been trying to explain this concern for years.
The explanation is complicated and not as well understood as it should be by lay persons to the airline industry which has numerous extremely complex facets, but there is a definite issue under some circumstances in some regions. Any indication of airliner safety conflict is a serious issue. The following video technical briefing by some industry members of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics explains why.
More Time is needed to prove the science and install the gear needed to workaround 5G Radio Interference With Business Aviation, General Aviation, Helicopters and Airline Travel, say experts. Also the telecom industry has some work to do to limit the interference.
So what is a radar altimeter?
“Radar altimeters are critical sensors used to enable and enhance several different safety and navigation functions throughout all phases of flight on all commercial aircraft and a wide range of other civil aircraft. Such functions include, but are not limited to, Terrain Awareness Warning Systems (TAWS), Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) and Airborne Collision Avoidance Systems (ACAS), Wind Shear detection systems, flight control systems, and auto-landing systems (including auto throttle and automated landing flare and rollout). Radar altimeters are also used on military aircraft,” according to the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics 5G-Interference-Assessment-Report.
USA Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg seeks delay of up to two weeks in the start of C-Band 5G communications.
“The reason for the delay is a further investigation of the very short range 5G Radio antennas, is their blanket of 24–47 GHz energy creating a series of false floors or ceilings because of the impact they have on the altimeter receivers aboard aircraft. This can change or falsify the range of reported altitudes by radar altimeters, but can also make the devices useless, unbeknownst to the aircraft crew, suspects the experts and reports some pilots who have been involved in the simulation programs,” explains a commercial pilot FPMag spoke with in Hong Kong.
“This is a serious problem that must be resolved because aircraft are bigger than ever with more passengers flying in worse weather as climate change adds to the challenges in aviation. When close to the ground during takeoff and landing or in areas of physical obstructions like airports in mountainous regions, the digital radio wave altimeter is what stands between major crashes, loss of life and safe flight,” she added.
“If the telecom industry moves forward with this rollout, we will see more flight delays, more cancellations, and more potentially dangerous situations in the air,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA president.
“We urge the telecom industry and the FCC to work collaboratively with the DOT, the FAA and aviation industry stakeholders to reach a responsible solution that advances our telecom capability without compromising our world-leading aviation safety systems,” said the airline captain and ALPA head.
“We will not stand for corporations creating a dangerous and disruptive situation for flight crews, our passengers and our industry,” said Sara Nelson, AFA president. “This is deeply irresponsible and unnecessary. Aviation operations are already stretched to a breaking point by the ongoing pandemic. Adding strain and creating potentially dangerous conditions will only make a bad situation worse.”