FAA fears 5G could affect ‘wide range’ of aircraft systems
24 Dec, 2021 00:50
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that 5G networks could interfere with a wide range of aircraft safety devices, identifying more than a dozen key systems potentially affected by the new frequencies.
FILE PHOTO: Workers install 5G telecommunications equipment on a cell tower in Orem, Utah © Reuters / George Frey
The FAA issued the broadened safety bulletin on Thursday, outlining new concerns on how 5G networks could impact aviation while stating that it is working with telecom providers to ensure the two can “safely coexist.”
The agency had previously warned that 5G could disrupt aircrafts’ radio altimeters – which allow planes to land in low-visibility conditions, among other things. But its latest notice states that anomalous data readings from altimeters could in turn affect a “wide range” of other safety systems, naming at least 17 – from terrain awareness and ground proximity, to take-off and flight control, as well as various warning systems.
Anomalous (missing or erroneous) radio altimeter inputs could cause these other systems to operate in an unexpected way during any phase of flight – most critically during takeoff, approach, and landing phases. These anomalous inputs may not be detected by the pilot in time to maintain continued safe flight and landing.
Fears over interference with radio altimeters prompted the FAA to impose a new rule earlier this month, which barred pilots from using the system at low altitudes in areas where 5G signals could affect onboard instruments.
Thursday’s bulletin comes just one day after aviation and telecommunications firms met to discuss 5G, agreeing to share data to resolve outstanding concerns. While AT&T and Verizon previously agreed to postpone their 5G rollout to January 5, aircraft companies have continued to push for further delays.
Earlier this week, industry giants Boeing and Airbus penned a letter to the Joe Biden administration warning that “5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate,” and could have an “enormous negative impact on the aviation industry.” Until those problems are addressed, the firms called for a pause on widespread 5G rollout. Despite the new safety warnings from the aviation regulator, however, it remains unclear whether it will heed the companies’ request for another delay.