Federation of Indian Pilots Raises Concern On 5G’s Potential To Interfere With Aviation Safety

Federation of Indian Pilots Raises Concern On 5G’s Potential To Interfere With Aviation Safety

New Delhi: The Federation of Indian Pilots has written to Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia seeking that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) develop a plan that enables safe and efficient implementation of 5G mobile communications networks in the C-band.

The C-band is the frequency band that is allocated for commercial telecommunications via satellites.

According to a report by the Frontline, the 6,000-pilot-strong federation wrote a letter in view of the global aviation industry raising serious concerns over the potential interference of 5G wireless signals with sensitive aircraft equipment such as the radio altitude meters. The industry’s concerns can potentially curtail airline and general aviation operations in areas where 5G signals broadcasting is going to be initiated.

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The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on December 23, released a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) pertaining to apprehensions over the possibility of 5G signal interference with aircraft radio altimeters. After this, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also urged US phone firms to delay the rollout of 5G services.

AT&T and Verizon, which are two of America’s biggest telephone service providers, had initially rejected the government’s request but later agreed to a two-week delay in the 5G rollout, the Frontline reported.

In their letter dated January 4, the Federation of Indian Pilots stated: “It is critical to fully understand and mitigate potential 5G signal interference with radio altimeters that are integral to aircraft safety systems. We understand activation of these services is scheduled to commence soon in select cities in India.”

It cited the FAA issuance of a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) over the ‘Risk of Potential Adverse Effects on Radio Altimeters’ during 5G deployment, as there are concerns that 5G signals could interfere with the radio altimeters that airliners, bizjets, and general aviation aircraft depend on for low altitude flight.

The alert includes recommended action in the form of Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) restrictions which could dramatically curtail airline and general aviation operations in areas where 5G signals broadcasting is set to begin.

“The FAA’s recent airworthiness directives (ADs) would restrict the use of approach and landing procedures during low visibility conditions. Other safety critical features such as aircraft and obstacle collision avoidance systems also depend on reliable radio altimeter performance. We at the Federation of Indian Pilots are concerned about the possible unintended consequences of not having full safety enhancement system capabilities available to pilots and about the considerable efforts to develop and communicate the mitigations to all segments of the aviation sector. These restrictions will adversely impact different aviation operations,” the letter read, as quoted by the Frontline.

The premier Indian pilot body mentioned that restricting the use of safety-critical systems when in the vicinity of the 5G coverage is not a viable long-term solution. It further stated that the powers that be “should always be working to improve the situational awareness of flight crews, not restricting it”.

“5G and aviation can safely co-exist, but it is going to take a collaborative approach on the part of DGCA and TRAI, and stakeholders in the aviation and telecommunications industries, to resolve outstanding issues,” it added.

The Federation of Indian Pilots has sought the formation of a government-industry expert panel to develop sustainable solutions for safe deployment before 5G coverage.

“Working together, sharing and analysing data, is going to result in the best outcome. We at the Federation of Indian Pilots’ are always willing to work with the government to advance the safety of the travelling public and the industry at large,” the letter stated, as quoted by the Frontline.

The report mentioned that Airbus and Boeing, the world’s two biggest plane makers, had in December in an appeal to the US government stated that “5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate”.

The letter cited research by the trade group Airlines for America and said that if the FAA’s 5G rules had been enforced in 2019, approximately 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights would have faced delays, diversions, or cancellations.

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