Flight Safety Foundation is strongly encouraging the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to work together to develop a plan that enables the safe and efficient implementation of 5G mobile communications services in the C-Band. It believes it is critical to fully understand and mitigate potential 5G signal interference with radio altimeters that are integral to aircraft safety systems. Activation of these services was scheduled for 5 January.
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. The Foundation is 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, including helicopter emergency medical services.
"Restricting the use of safety-critical systems when in the vicinity of 5G interference, as outlined in recent FAA ADs, is not a viable long-term solution," says Captain Conor Nolan, chairman of the Foundation's board of governors. "We should always be working to improve the situational awareness of flight crews, not restricting it."
The Foundation believes that 5G and aviation can safely co-exist, but it is going to take a collaborative approach on the part of the FAA and FCC, and stakeholders in the aviation and telecommunications industries, to resolve outstanding issues. "We urge the formation of a government-industry expert panel to collaboratively develop viable and sustainable solutions for safe deployment before 5G activation," says its president and CEO Dr Hassan Shahidi. "Working together, sharing and analysing data, is going to result in the best outcome."