Note: The FAA has released a statement a few days ago on the continued rollout of 5G wireless transmitters. A media report stated that ” impacts from the service on aviation have been limited.” Suspension of flights from three international airlines was a pretty severe impact. However, it is technically true, but it is because of the diligence of the FAA, and the speed with which they conducted their tests. The concerns that the FAA and experts had about the interference of 5G with the radar altimeters were all too real.
Now, due to more accurate mapping, provided by the wireless companies, along with other mitigation methods that the FAA is deploying (such as transmitters being placed at certain distances) are still in effect. It is not well known by the public that proximity always matters (with any type of broadcast, including UHF, VHF, Wifi, etc.)
Most people are unconsciously aware of this, because they know that if they are in a certain room in their house, and they don’t have a wifi extender in place, they will get very spotty reception, or no reception at all. Streaming just will not work in a certain area of the house, because it is too far from the transmitter. If they move closer to the transmitter, suddenly they can stream just fine.
So, with the airports, the same is true. The transmitters need to be placed a certain distance from the runways and airports (it had been previously stated that it would be 2 miles), and then there is a limited amount of interference. This is something that is basic knowledge to those working in communications, but is not well understood by the general public.
We should all applaud the efforts of the FAA to keep the flying public safe, and we also applaud the efforts of the telecom companies to be amenable to this most basic requirement of the FAA.
The flying public can be assured that their safety is always uppermost in the minds of this governmental agency, and they do not have to worry about interference from 5G towers.
Because the FAA took care of it, as it is tasked with doing. The writer of this note has been a wireless communications consultant for the last two and a half decades.
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From the statement by the FAA on January 28, 2022:
“Through continued technical collaboration, the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service. The FAA appreciates the strong communication and collaborative approach with wireless companies, which have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments.
The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations. This will enable the wireless providers to safely turn on more towers as they deploy new 5G service in major markets across the United States. The FAA continues to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.”
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From the statement on January 27, 2022:
“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) revising the landing requirements for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes at airports where 5G interference could occur.
Continued collaboration between the FAA and wireless companies has enabled the agency to clear an estimated 90 percent of the U.S. commercial aircraft fleet, including the Boeing 737 MAX, for most low-visibility approaches in 5G deployment. This AD will not apply to landings at airports where the FAA determined the aircraft radio altimeters are safe and reliable in the 5G C-band environment. It also does not apply to airports where 5G isn’t deployed.
The FAA issued the AD because many systems on 737 MAX rely on the radio altimeter, including autothrottle, ground proximity warning, thrust reversers and Traffic Collision Avoidance System.
The AD applies to approximately 177 airplanes in the U.S. and 657 worldwide.”
So, as of today, the United States lost about 10 percent of its airline capacity to certain airports (many airports do not have low visibility runways, and thus can accept the same planes they accepted previously).
We can all congratulate the FAA on doing its duty to the American flying public.
Banner Image: Red Airplane. Image Credit – Tanathip Rattanatum