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5g and Aircraft - What you need to know

There is a concern about how the 5G C-band impacts altimeter readings in low visibility conditions. Read everything you need to know about it here.

The 5G Rollout

On January 19th in the United States, 5G services began in 46 cities using frequencies in the C-band radio spectrum. Wireless networks employ radio waves to communicate between devices. These frequencies may overlap with those used by radio altimeters, key safety equipment on airplanes. To avoid interference with communications on adjacent channels, frequency bands must be closely regulated and tracked.

Radio altimeters are sensors that measure an aircraft’s height above the ground. The data is then used to inform other safety equipment on the plane such as navigation instruments, terrain awareness, and collision-avoidance systems. Radio altimeters are important when there is low visibility for pilots when landing at an airport.

Aviation Disruption from 5G

There is a concern about how the 5G C-band impacts altimeter readings in low visibility conditions since 5G uses a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to aviation operations and other factors. Unfortunately, the FAA does not have enough data to show the true impact on all systems, therefore, imposing limitations on flight operations utilizing radio altimeter equipment near antennas in 5G networks.

Only operations where specific aircraft systems rely on the Radio Altimeter (RA) as described in the published NOTAM will be affected in this situation unless the particular RA receives FAA approval through an Alternative Means of Compliance (AMOCs).  All other operations should not be affected.

But 5G is already in use in other countries...

The United States’ air traffic is the most intricate in the world, and the FAA requires us to maintain the highest levels of safety. Other countries’ 5G deployments frequently entail different circumstances than those proposed for the United States. For example, Europe’s authorized power is higher than the authorized power levels in the US.

What Happens Next

The FAA requires that radio altimeters be accurate and dependable. Planes with updated radio altimeters are ok to fly into airports with low visibility. Older planes with outdated equipment are asked not to land if visibility is low.

There are specific NOTAMs that airports and pilots are subject to. For example, an airport located in North Carolina is subject to the 5G Aerodrome NOTAM because it is in an area where some radio altimeters may be unreliable due to the presence of 5G C-Band wireless broadband interference. On the other hand, this airport is not subject to 5G IAP NOTAM due to not having low visibility approaches.

The FAA is working with the altimeter manufacturers, Verizon and AT&T to further refine the risk assessments. Test flights and collaboration between aviation safety experts and wireless company engineers will continue to develop more precise modeling tools that will better tailor NOTAMs.

What You Can Do

There is a lot of information and news about the 5G rollout. Deciding what to do next may be clear as a day for some and maybe not so clear for others. Keep your solution simple by checking with your avionics shop/facility to confirm the status of compatibility of your aircraft with 5G.

Our experts are here to help. If you need some or would like to confirm the compatibility of your aircraft, give SAM a call. The Sky Aircraft Maintenance (aka SAM) team is made up of highly trained aviation technicians. They are committed to excellence in every aspect of the industry and are here to provide you with exceptional service.

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