Saturday, December 25, 2021

Indian flights run into hurdle as US restricts flying close to 5G stations

Mumbai:  Pandemic aside, the aviation industry has already run into rough weather again with another airborne concern, this time it’s 5G mobile phone service deployment in the US. Concerned over 5G transmissions interfering with aircraft ‘radio altimeters’, the US aviation regulator has issued directives which impose severe operational restrictions on aircraft flying close to 5G wireless ground transmission stations.

Among the impacted airlines would be Air India, the only Indian carrier that operates to the US. It also operates these routes with US-manufactured aircraft and so would come under the ambit of these directives.

In India, 5G testing is on and air safety experts say these shouldn’t be carried out near airports or areas where aircraft descend low.

For the aviation industry, the big problem maker are the 5G C-band transmissions with spectral closeness to radio altimeter (RA). Radio altimeter is the only sensor onboard an aircraft that provides information on aircraft height above terrain and other obstacles. Its accurate altitude readings are used by a number of aircraft systems, including collision avoidance systems and ‘Autoland’ functions, all of which play critical roles, especially after the aircraft descends below 2,500 feet for an approach and landing. During low-visibility landings, the RA readings' constant feed on aircraft height clearance over ground help cockpit crew gain situational awareness.

The 4200-4400 MHz band is a shared band internationally reserved solely for radio altimeters.

“Any failures or interruptions to these sensors can therefore lead to incidents with catastrophic outcomes, potentially resulting in multiple fatalities,” said a document on 5G interference released by International Air Transport Association last year.

Capt Amit Singh, an air safety expert said: “In India, 5G deployment isn’t imminent. But from an air safety point of view, testing is the same thing as deployment because the 5G waves would be transmitted in locations where the testing is on. But here, the relevant stakeholders such as airport operator, civil aviation regulator, airlines, pilots aren’t aware of these 5G waves. That is more dangerous because inadvertently something might happen. NOTAMs (notice) should be issued for pilots. Ministries should come together to form directives to ensure that 5G testing takes place at a safe distance from airport. The idea is no surprises.” On November 25, a mobile service provider conducted 5G tests in Kolkata, on October 5, testing happened in Delhi, he added.

25/12/21 Manju V/Times of India

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