According to Mike Slack, a licensed pilot, former NASA aerospace engineer and aviation attorney with Slack Davis Sanger, the 5G rollout can interfere with radar altimeters causing them to malfunction at a critical moment in the landing approach close to the ground. “The pilot may need to abort the landing attempt and make another approach or divert to another airport. It could also cause a catastrophic accident. The loss of a radar altimeter by an airliner or executive jet on an approach in bad weather is a serious concern,” said Slack.
Safety isn’t the only concern – there will also be considerable costs associated with aircraft modifications, crew training, and the operational impacts of cancelled flights and loss of access to key airports. “This is the first major, national aviation safety issue that the FAA has faced since the Boeing Max 8. It remains to be seen, once the 5G rollout occurs tomorrow, whether the FAA has been sufficiently proactive and assertive to avoid the very real safety risks to the flying public and significant economic costs to the aviation industry,” said Slack.
Slack is available to discuss the above and the viable solutions available to mitigate the 5G danger to aircraft (listed below). To speak with him via phone or Zoom, contact Megan Braverman at 310-405-7343 or Megan@Berbay.com.
- Government regulators (FCC and FAA) first imposed a two-week delay in the 5G rollout until January 19, 2022, to afford regulators, the 5G telecommunications carriers, the airlines and aviation industry stakeholders time to identify solutions to this serious safety concern.
- The flying public can expect to see the following immediate accommodations to mitigate the danger:
- Establish temporary buffer zones at 50 U.S. airports. According to the FAA, wireless companies have agreed to turn off transmitters and make other accommodations near their airports, which include Austin Bergstrom International Airport, for six months “to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings”.
- Authorize alternate landing approaches for airlines which rely on GPS satellite technology, and which offer precise altitude guidance to aircraft systems.
- Ascertain which radar altimeters are vulnerable to 5G interference and work with the airlines and aviation operators to establish a process for replacing those altimeters with models that are not susceptible to the 5G signal.
- The longer term and more permanent solutions, already under discussion and which will likely require more study and formal action by the FAA and FCC, include:
- Increasing “buffer zones” around airports so that the 5G antennas are a safe and sufficient distance from the critical area where 5G interference could disrupt a landing aircraft’s radar altimeter. This accommodation is already being used in Europe.
- Mandate a reduction in the power level of 5G transmitters so that they are still effective yet do not create a safety risk to radar altimeters. The temporary power level authorized for 5G in the U.S. is 2.5 times that allowed in France.
- Require 5G antennas around airports to tilt downward to limit the interference risk. This is another solution already employed in Europe and under consideration by the FAA.
- Alter or restrict the permitted 5G frequencies so that they are sufficiently different from the frequencies used by radar altimeters and other critical aviation systems.
About Slack Davis Sanger
Since 1993, Slack Davis Sanger has been serving clients nationally and internationally for over three decades, with a combined experience of more than 250 years. The firm’s practice areas include aviation accidents, aircraft product liability cases, aviation business issues; auto, bus, and truck accidents, as well as vehicle defects; workplace injuries such as oilfield and construction site incidents; whistleblower and class-action matters, and other catastrophic personal injury and death cases.