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Airlines seek clarity on altitude improvements for 5G




The potential for 5G signal interference with radio altimeters on planes flying in and out of US airports continues to alarm airlines around the world, as the Federal Aviation Administration refuses to budge from what the industry calls arbitrary deadlines for cabin avionics upgrades , despite the lack of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The FAA pushed back an earlier July 5 deadline for airlines to either modify or install new radio altimeters on their planes after telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T again agreed to suspend plans to enable 5G signals in the so-called C-band in two miles from the affected airport. the tracks. The temporary layoff for airlines will end for some aircraft models – including many operated by regional airlines – at the end of the year. Others, including commercial jets operated by most major airlines, face a deadline of July 2023, when another 19 telecommunications companies expect to activate their 5G networks at full capacity as authorized by the Federal Communications Commission. of Communications (FCC).

The issue centers on the proximity of the frequency bands in which 5G and altimeters operate. Commercial aviation radio frequencies operate in the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz range, while 5G signals fall in the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz range, part of the C band. The problem can arise in cases of “bleeding” of the radio meter in the spectrum part of 5G networks.

The FAA has classified various aircraft models in need of upgrades into three groups, the first of which includes the Embraer ERJ-145 and all E-Jets. Group 2 covers the Airbus A310, A320, A330 and A340 using Thales equipment. Operators of aircraft in groups 1 and 2 must complete their upgrades by the end of this year.

Group 3 consists of three “steps,” which an FAA spokesman said prioritizes the renewal of the remaining affected models. Step 1 covers the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380; Step 2 covers Boeing 747-8 and A310, A320, A330 and A340 with Collins equipment; and Step 3 includes all Bombardier CRJs and the remaining Boeing fleet. Operators must complete upgrades to Group 3 aircraft by next July.

Airlines have expressed frustration with what one official called a “lack of a regulatory paper trail” detailing the requirements after a June 14 letter from acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolan directed stakeholders to “act expeditiously” to installed radio frequency filters on radio altimeters. In mid-June the FAA held a series of talks with airline association leaders to help provide guidance, but, in letters sent to Nolan on June 17 by Airlines for America (A4A) and the Regional Airline Association (RAA) and another in July. 18 from a group of eight global airline associations led by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), all of which expressed frustration with what they consider a lack of transparency on the telecommunications companies’ specific deployment plans and when the FAA intends to replace the system now. instead relying on notifications of air missions (Notams) and alternative methods of compliance (AMOCs).

Airline representatives also point to a lack of service bulletins communicating details of the required modifications while calling the FAA’s referral to OEMs for information on term conditions “unacceptable.”

In fact, during a July 7 FAA roundtable, radio altimeter manufacturers reported that supply chain disruptions will make it “extremely difficult” to ship enough kits to allow airlines to meet the July 2023 deadline. according to the letter from the eight airline associations.

An airline industry and former FAA official speaking with AIN on condition of anonymity complained about the undue influence telecom companies wield in Washington, referring to a “revolving door” between the FCC and the industry. Meanwhile, he said, the FAA “dropped the ball” by not advocating for the aviation industry even though airlines raised the issue for years.

For its part, the FAA responded to the question of the need and timing of an NPRM in a written statement indicating that it will continue to work with industry leaders to ensure they can meet the deadlines.

“We continue to engage with aircraft manufacturers and operators to ensure that repairs are completed by July 2023, when the voluntary measures from wireless carriers expire,” he said. “We will take specific regulatory action as appropriate.”

The FAA argues that its efforts — particularly including negotiations with airwave providers — resulted in a one-year delay in removing mitigation measures from telecom companies until July 2023. However, it acknowledges that it saw additional action from the FCC to limit broadcasts in currently achievable power levels cannot guarantee that aircraft may need to undergo further upgrades in three to five years when equipment capable of transmitting at the maximum power levels approved by the commission comes into use wide.




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