US 5G roll out ignores concerns for Air Transport safety

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 18, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Despite year-long protests from the World’s airlines and the FAA, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allows Verizon and ATT to roll out 5G base stations underneath the approach paths of landing aircraft in the US.

In 2020 the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) did tests that established the risk of 5G Base stations affecting the critical Radio Altimeters needed for bad weather landings as real.

After FAA issues a 2021 December 23 AD (Airworthiness Directive) about the danger, airlines must now decide what flights must be canceled during bad weather spells on affected airports.

Figure 1. The way the US 5G C-band base stations can affect a Radar Altimeter. Source: RTCA.

Radar Altimeters are part of ILS bad weather landing systems

A radar altimeter is a vital part of many warning and flight controls systems on our airliners, with the perhaps most critical the ILS CAT II and III blind landing systems. Then, the undisturbed knowledge of where the aircraft is in the final approach and landing is vital for changes in the Autoland function, such as switching from one mode to another.

FAA writes in its Continued Airworthiness Notification from four days ago that Boeing has warned its customers that the switch from AIR to GROUND mode in its 787 series Autoland during late approach can be affected, with runway excursions as a result if spoilers and thrust reversers don’t deploy correctly.

The conflict

The conflict between the FCC with the telecoms industry and FAA and the airline industry started in 2020 when the FCC decided that the sparely used 3,7 to 4.2 GHz band would be reallocated to telecom use and subsequently auctioned the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz band to 5G use in the US.

It’s only 202 MHz from the Worldwide 4.2 to 4.4 GHz Radar Altimeter band. After lengthy discussions, the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) did tests in 2020 that showed the interference risk is real, not only for airliners but also for business jets, general aviation aircraft, and helicopters (Figure 1).

The FCC and telecoms industry argues that a 202 MHz spacing should be enough, but the Worldwide specifications for Radar Altimeters did not prescribe these should be unaffected by such emissions. There was no risk for interference of this kind in the vicinity of airport approach paths before the 5G use of the adjacent band.

With Telecom Cell networks, this changes as the base stations are everywhere. RTCA used the O’Hare 27L approach to showcase the problem (Figure 2).

Figure 2. RTCA example, O’Hare 27L approach with five 4G base stations in the approach path. Source: RTCA.

There are five 4G base stations in the approach path, and should these be upgraded with 5G, the Radar Altimeters of landing aircraft can be disturbed. If the Pilots fly with near-zero visibility (ILS CAT III) any system disturbance is critical, especially if the Autoland function is disturbed.

How can this happen

Since the FCC decision, FAA and the FCC have argued the issue, with FCC and the wireless industry arguing there have been no problems in other countries. For Europe, this is because the frequency separation is three times the US at 600MHz (5G stops at 3.6GHz). FAA and the airline industry argue air safety is not about “it hasn’t been a problem elsewhere “, only extensive verification and tests can decide if it’s safe or not.

The fight had the US Transport Secretary Buttigieg sending a letter to Verizon and ATT CEO’s end of December, outlining a delay to January 19 of the general rollout of 4 GHz 5G in the US and to the end of March for FAA identified sensitive airports, so that FAA and the airline industry can verify what is safe and not.

The problem is not confined to US Airlines

With US, North and South American, and the rest of the World’s airliners coming to land in US airports, the problem spans a large part of the 25,000 airlines in the World. An approach “you must fix your Radar Altimeters and connected systems “ is therefore not workable.

What must be done is a limit on the 5G rollout around airport approach paths and extensive tests with all the in-market used Radar Altimeters, old as new, and this takes time. Only then can the industry decide on the gravity of the problem and the possible fixes.

Bad weather landings on affected airports and non cleared airliners will be forbidden until then.

186 Comments on “US 5G roll out ignores concerns for Air Transport safety

  1. Who was asleep at the switch when this was allowed? Did no one in the aircraft industry notice that the input filters on the rad alts were too broad to remove this interference? A simple study of the specifications should have had them screaming in terror.

    • I saw a great quote somewhere about the FCC decision akin to allowing somebody to bring a lawnmower to a library. It also seems that the urgency is due in part to the fact the telecoms shown little interest in sharing specifics with the aerospace industry, including the location of towers (as I recall they would only share if there was a non-disclosure agreement in place that would effectively handcuff the industry if there were any issues discovered):

      “Unfortunately, nobody’s ever given us any different data…which has been kind of frustrating,” McVenes told AIN on Thursday. “Because I tried earlier last year to bring the CTIA and some of the telecommunications folks into the room with some of the radar altimeter engineers. So, [we wanted] a good, honest exchange of data and analysis to work it together. Because the only way we’re going to solve this is by working it together. But we never could get any collective effort together with them. They just weren’t all that interested.”


    • US Transport Secretary currently is a guy called Buttigieg. The Transport Secretary is appointed by the President (or rather the folks he owes favours to) as part of the cabinet.

      Is there a Secretary of Communications? Sort of but he (she in this current case I believe) is appointed by the Congress.

      I am not an American so have I got this right?

      Is this the problem right here? Do we need Mussolini to bump heads together?

      The cellular companies paid USD$80 billion for the 5G C band.

      (Just wondering either aviation of the phone companies have more clout)

      The US band for some reason goes to 3.98 GHz whereas much of the rest of the world stops at 3.8Ghz. Hence the US is closer to the 4.2GHz used by radar altimeters.

      Cellular is rather precise, that’s how they get so much data in. I find it hard to believe they have harmonics or sidebands getting to 4.2GHz.

      Radar Altimeters should of course be using dithered pulse repetition frequencies for their pulses or FM style shaped chirps and checking multiple returns to reduced the chance of false readings.

      Commercial aviation avionics seems rather backward.

      • VETO Powers.
        Here in Germany (some) historic users have those.
        Visible here mostly via vetoed placement of wind turbines ( potential interference assumed: military and civil radar, radio beacons, ground based weather radar … ). mobile base stations instead have run ins with esoteric “electrofeely” locals.

        • Is suspect the American situation will get altimeters working with the 3.7-3.98GHz band in operation. Other countries can then auction of their bandwidth as well.

        • I suspect that because of the US situation all radar altimeters will soon be cleared to operate with C band cellular operating to 3.98GHz. That will allow other nations to sell of spectrum.

          The US President could presumably declare a national security risk which would give him over arching powers. I doubt it will require that.

  2. Thank you for this. Any idea why dealing with the issue was left till so late? Why was a process for extensive tests not started earlier? It really feels like the FAA and FCC are playing agency brinksmanship, waiting to see who will backdown first.

    • More like “game of chicken”.
      FAA flinched 🙂

      IMU GPS (receivers) had some similar issues with “historic” airside hardware. Similar issue: older receivers have too wide input filters.
      cheap modern (handheld) hardware was afair not effected.

    • Hello jbeeko,

      Re: “Thank you for this. Any idea why dealing with the issue was left till so late? Why was a process for extensive tests not started earlier? ”

      The FAA and aviation organizations have consistently and strongly objected ever since the FCC announced its intentions to allow use of the frequencies under consideration about 2 years ago, their objections were ignored by the FCC, just as was the case with the Ligado network and GPS interference and objections by the Secretary of Defense, FAA,and GPS manufacturers. See my post on the subject below.

      To allow an orderly process of replacing tens or hundred of thousands of in use radio altimeters, that had no problem with interference when they were designed, and redesigning and re-certifying autoland and flight control systems that had no problem with interference from any existing signal source when they were designed, ten years might have been a reasonable amount of time, 2 years is vastly inadequate. Do you think that Delta or Southwest can swing on over to Walmart or log onto Amazon and order 500 radio altimeters or new and improved autoland sytsems for delivery next week, or even next year, if tens of thousands of other users are simultaneously shopping for new radio altimeters?

      • “To allow an orderly process of replacing tens or hundred of thousands of in use radio altimeters, that had no problem with interference when they were designed, and redesigning and re-certifying autoland and flight control systems that had no problem with interference from any existing signal source when they were designed, ten years might have been a reasonable amount of time, 2 years is vastly inadequate.”

        Fair point. But is seems like there has not even been an orderly effort to quantify the problem.

        • jbeeko:

          Considering the chaos of early 2017 to early 2021 are you really surprised?

          • Are you somehow trying to pin the FAA’s inaction on the presence of the Trump administration in office?

  3. Thank you for this Bjorn. It is surprisingly difficult to find an objective, clear, and accurate report on the background and status of this problem. Even as an industry insider.

  4. Why is the FCC telling the FAA what is safe for airliners? Delay the rollout until the tests are complete and any problems are fixed. Why is this even up for discussion?

    • I suspect is because Secretary of Transport is appointed by President as part of his cabinet. He ultimately overseas the FAA. Secretary of Communications is appointed by Congress and overseas FCC.

      So POTUS can use executive powers to ground an aircraft (like Trump did with the MAX) but can not tell someone to stop transmitting on a certain frequency. The congress can’t tell someone to stop transmitting because it doesn’t have executive powers. The FCC Secretary probably can but it would go to court because the cellular companies paid $80 billion and own it.

      • -> “Secretary of Communications is appointed by Congress and overseas FCC.”

        WTH are you talking about?? Who is this “Secretary of Communications”???

  5. Are there not several independent altitude systems for such important readings? GPS with wide area augumentation system and airport static air pressure being 2 of them. Also Reuired Navi Performance systems are being common, don’t know if they need radio altimeter reading?

    • Regulations say something different.
      ( and it is this “why can’t we just ..” thing lamented in the other “COTS or not” article. 🙂

      GPWS is fully radar altimeter dependent.
      doing the same with GPS would demand full coverage up to date mapping/terrain data and a complex system.
      no KISS here.

      • The WAAS at some airports should improve GPS precision. It is intended to enable aircraft to rely on GPS for all phases of flight, including precision approaches to any airport within its coverage area.It may be further enhanced with the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) also known by the preferred ICAO term Ground-Based Augmentation System (GBAS) in critical areas. (from wiki)

        • Hello Claes,

          Re: “The WAAS at some airports should improve GPS precision.”

          This is true; however, WAAS is good enough for Cat 1 approaches but not for Cat 2 or 3 approaches. GBAS can support Cat 2 and Cat 3 but most aircraft are not yet equipped for it, and few airports have the necessary ground stations to support it. In the US I believe that Newark, Houston, and San Francisco are currently the only large commercial airports equipped for GBAS.

          “The WAAS was jointly developed by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as part of the Federal Radionavigation Program (DOT-VNTSC-RSPA-95-1/DOD-4650.5), beginning in 1994, to provide performance comparable to category 1 instrument landing system (ILS) for all aircraft possessing the appropriately certified equipment.[1] Without WAAS, ionospheric disturbances, clock drift, and satellite orbit errors create too much error and uncertainty in the GPS signal to meet the requirements for a precision approach (see GPS sources of error). A precision approach includes altitude information and provides course guidance, distance from the runway, and elevation information at all points along the approach, usually down to lower altitudes and weather minimums than non-precision approaches.”

          “WAAS is not capable of the accuracies required for Category II or III ILS approaches. Thus, WAAS is not a sole-solution and either existing ILS equipment must be maintained or it must be replaced by new systems, such as the Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS)”

          “In December 2008, the New York Port Authority invested $2.5 million to install a GBAS at Newark Airport (EWR) with Continental (now United) equipping 15 aircraft for $1.1 million while the FAA committed $2.5 million to assess the technology. Honeywell’s SLS-4000 GBAS design was approved by the FAA in September 2009 and is still the only one. It offers Cat. 1 instrument landings with a 200 ft (61 m) decision height and can be upgraded to a 100 ft (30 m) Cat. 2 with real-time monitoring of ionospheric conditions through SBAS, while the more precise Cat. 3 SLS-5000 is waiting for compatible airliners. The first installations were approved in EWR in 2012 and Houston / IAH in 2013. The Port Authority recommends a GBAS for New York JFK and LaGuardia (LGA) to alleviate congestion. Newark and Houston GBAS were upgraded to Cat. 2, Seattle-Tacoma, San Francisco SFO, JFK and LGA are expected next.”

          “By Spring 2018, Boeing delivered 3,500 GLS-capable airliners, with 5,000 on order: GLS Cat. 2/3 is standard on the Boeing 747-8, 787 and 777 while GLS Cat. 1 is optional on the 737NG/MAX and GLS Cat. 2/3 will be offered from 2020. Airbus offers GLS Cat. 1 with autoland on the A320, A330, A350 and A380.”

        • GPS precision is less of an issue.
          GPWS does not look ahead.
          The E in EGPWS includes terrain data to achieve look ahead ( warn against CFIT : buildings, hills, stuff .. ) required minimums should be (much?)larger than available precision.

          • In theory EPGWS has all that it needs to generate a field height that will match and cross check the radar altimeter.

            GPS will provide the location and altitude above nominal sea level. This will provide a lookup to a terrain map in which terrain altitude added to seal level altitude from the GPS will provide field altitude.

            It would need to be differential GPS to be landing grade (20cm accuracy). The systems are already there and in place to backup radar altimeter inside the EGPWS. They are simply not used.

            It is just another case of the aviation industry being slow to move until 10 years after an accident. Synthetic air data could have prevented AF447 for instance.

        • Think EGPWS contains a transmitter that sends out correction signals so GPS recievers can compensate for 3D local errors in GPS coordinates down to inches within a certian area. A bit similar to WAAS. some commentors might know more details.
          The US was a bit too greedy selling off to wide of a spectrum close to airports, in theory just to hide your tail and buy back those frequencies around airports limiting those 5G antennas to a narrower frequency band locally.

    • Hello Claes,

      Re: “Are there not several independent altitude systems for such important readings? GPS with wide area augumentation system and airport static air pressure being 2 of them.”

      Radar altimeters are accurate to within 2 feet below 2oo feet, and to within 10 feet below 500 feet. Aircraft barometric altimeters are only accurate to within 75 feet, which is not good enough for commanding the landing flare in autoland or very low visibility conditions. There is a big difference between leveling off and dropping in from within 2 feet of runway height, and leveling off and dropping in from 75 feet above the runway (bad landing that will turn passengers white if you are lucky, crash or runway overrun if you are not). GPS altitude is even less accurate than the barometric altimeter.

      “The accuracy of the radio altimeter is expected to be:
      0 – 500 feet: ±2 feet or 2% of height, whichever is the greater.
      Above 500 feet: 5 % of height”

      “Manufacturing and installation specifications, along with 14 CFR Part 43, Appendix E requirement for periodic tests and inspections, helps reduce mechanical, elastic, temperature, and installation errors. (See Instrument Flying Handbook.) Scale error may be observed while performing a ground altimeter check using the following procedure:

      1) Set the current reported airfield altimeter setting on the altimeter setting scale.

      2) Read the altitude on the altimeter. The altitude should read the known field elevation if you are located on the same reference level used to establish the altimeter setting.

      3) If the difference from the known field elevation and the altitude read from the altimeter is plus or minus 75 feet or greater, the accuracy of the altimeter is questionable and the problem should be referred to an appropriately rated repair station for evaluation and possible correction.,for%20evaluation%20and%20possible%20correction.

      “Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers can also determine altitude by trilateration with four or more satellites. In aircraft, altitude determined using autonomous GPS is not reliable enough to supersede the pressure altimeter without using some method of augmentation.[11] In hiking and climbing, it is common to find that the altitude measured by GPS is off by as much as 400 feet (122 metres) depending on satellite orientation.[12]”

      • In my post above:
        “Radar altimeters are accurate to within 2 feet below 200 feet, …”
        should have been;
        “Radar altimeters are accurate to within 2 feet below 100 feet, …”

        Re: “GPS altitude is even less accurate than the barometric altimeter.”

        WAAS can support Cat 1 approaches, and SBAS can support Cat 2 and Cat 3; however, few airports have the ground stations needed for SBAS and many aircraft are not equipped for Cat 1 GPS approaches, and fewer still equipped for Cat 2 or 3 SBAS augmented GPS approaches. I believe that in the US Newark, Houston, and San Francisco may be the only major commercial airports in the US that currently have SBAS.

        ” Honeywell’s SLS-4000 GBAS design was approved by the FAA in September 2009 and is still the only one. It offers Cat. 1 instrument landings with a 200 ft (61 m) decision height and can be upgraded to a 100 ft (30 m) Cat. 2 with real-time monitoring of ionospheric conditions through SBAS, while the more precise Cat. 3 SLS-5000 is waiting for compatible airliners. The first installations were approved in EWR in 2012 and Houston / IAH in 2013. The Port Authority recommends a GBAS for New York JFK and LaGuardia (LGA) to alleviate congestion. Newark and Houston GBAS were upgraded to Cat. 2, Seattle-Tacoma, San Francisco SFO, JFK and LGA are expected next.”

        “By Spring 2018, Boeing delivered 3,500 GLS-capable airliners, with 5,000 on order: GLS Cat. 2/3 is standard on the Boeing 747-8, 787 and 777 while GLS Cat. 1 is optional on the 737NG/MAX and GLS Cat. 2/3 will be offered from 2020. Airbus offers GLS Cat. 1 with autoland on the A320, A330, A350 and A380.”

        • Flight levels are “Barometric”.

          Baro height (deviation) is the same for all aircraft in the vicinity. (beyond instrument errors ).
          GPS height can vary quite a bit. ( depending on sats used, algorithm .. )
          Now mix Baro height use and GPS height use and watch for the collisions. 🙂

          • I think there is a switch-over altitude between the 2 readings. GPS (with enhancements) and radar altitude should read the same. I assume one day baro altitude navigation will be replaced with GPS altitude.

      • There is no fundamental problem that prevents GPS from being used for blind landing.

        GPS requires 3 satellites for the trilateration algorithm to work. A 4th greatly increases accuracy since the 4th satellite allows one satellite to be used as a timing marker. (GPS receivers don’t have atomic clocks to make them cheap). With 4 satellites a horizontal accuracy of 5m and a vertical accuracy of 15m can be expected. Additional satellites increase accuracy by helping to eliminate multipath reflections, atmospheric and ionospheric variations. High quality receivers operate on two frequencies which reduces these factors further since the frequencies behave differently.

        Differential GPS can achieve accuracies of a centimetre.

        A nearby GPS receiver at a precisely known position (imagine one at the airport or even runway threshold) is used to generate correction signals.

        The correction signals can be received by satellite, internet or a direct link.

        This allows accuracies of 20cm or so. Long term this reduces to below 1cm.

        The 400ft horizontal inaccuracy quoted is from a hikers GPS likely receiving 4 or 3 satellites with multipath interference in a mountain, ravine or valley and without dual band or differential GPS.

        Any International satellite blind landing system would need to be differential GPS and would probably need to use Galileo, GPS, GLONAS etc.

        Of course even GPS is under threat by the FCC close allocation of frequencies.

  6. An approach “you must fix your Radar Altimeters and connected systems “ is therefore not workable

    This is an outstanding statement! It is time for this industry to move to 21st century and update their equipment as per the rest of world.

    • Aviation did use this frequencies first. In most European countries the frequency gap is wide enough to avoid interferences.

      The issue is that the that the communication companies didn’t communicated with the aircraft industry.

      My solution would be no use of these frequencies at airports until all aircraft had been updated. Updates are going to be paid for by FCC for any aircraft with a possible destination within the US.

      • The legal situation might be that radar altimeter users (airlines) need to pay cellular companies that own the 3.7-3.98 for the extra bandwidth they need .

  7. Bjorn:

    I had not heard any discussion of this from Europe or other areas. Not deep into 5G but assume Europe and others have it.

    Does it affect all or something just US?

    For the Group:

    Mentaur Pilot did an excellent U Tube on blind (or almost) landing ans the aspects of Radar Altimeter . Forget if a specific incident or a general one.

    • From the article:

      “FAA and the FCC have argued the issue, with FCC and the wireless industry arguing there have been no problems in other countries. For Europe, this is because the frequency separation is three times the US at 600MHz (5G stops at 3.6GHz). “

    • The answer to that question is in the article above: didn’t you read it…?

    • Some months ago, French DGAC publicly expressed concerns and even took position against 5G deployment around airport approaches for the same reason. Telecom operators called treachery against the government office who sold them the bandwidth…
      I don’t if anything has been settled since…

  8. A couple of questions:

    Has 5G been deployed in the EU and if so, any de-sensitivity to avionics? If not, this the rest of the world operating at the same power levels?

    Have US carriers placed COWs near airports and tested prior to approval? If so, are the test results public?

    • Re your first question (which is actually answered in the article above): since the rest of the world outside the US is just a barren desert, how could it possibly have something as sophisticated as 5G?

      Back to reality: I’m posting this in the EU using a 5G signal that’s been in use for months here. What’s more, I live about 10 km from a busy airport. A mall here is right under the approach path to the busiest runway: perfect 5G signal, and no ILS issues. Amazing, isn’t it?

  9. More systemic dysfunction.
    Can you imagine the lawsuits that this mess is going to spawn? According to CNBC, telecom providers Verizon and AT&T paid $80B for the spectrum segment in question!

  10. Does anyone feel like this is a repeat of the MAX saga? Telcos seem to be able to override the FCC same as Boeing did the FAA.

    • More like a copy of the infighting in DC: FCC and FAA trying to outstrut each other like roosters, while industry and public look on aghast from the margins.

      • One of the reasons for the conflict is that the FCC has the mandate to manage a limited resource (the spectrum) for the greatest public good. That includes expecting resource users to update systems over time so they don’t “waste” spectrum by requiring excessively large separations between users. So the FCC’s position is there are modern altimeters available that will free up spectrum for other users, aviation should migrate to them.

        The FAA is more conservative and has a “if it is not broken, don’t fix it”. The FAA is also loath to impose the cost on aviation.

        The situation is because the two operated without coordination or a plan.

        • “The situation is because the two operated without coordination or a plan.”

          Sounds like a third world bXXXX republic.

  11. “Emirates, JAL, and ANA Cut US Flights Over 5G Concerns”

    “For foreign airlines, this poses a different headache. After a 10+ hour journey to the US, the airlines need to ensure that their aircraft will be able to land safely and return to their home country. Without that guarantee, operating those flights puts a risk on airlines to send aircraft out, which could lead to disrupted operations and, in a worst-case scenario, leave an aircraft with crew and passengers stuck somewhere until conditions improve for operations to continue.”

  12. Remember when the FAA prohibited the use of cell phones and electronics below a certain altitude because it would interfere with the plane’s navigation system?

    Then all of a sudden it didn’t matter. I’m not saying this is the same situation here but they really damaged their credibility when this turned out not to be true.

  13. Wait. Don’t we already have 5G towers all over the place, including 5 along the flight path for that runway at O’Hare? Do those towers disrupt radar altimeters?

    • Hello Stan,

      Re: “Don’t we already have 5G towers all over the place, including 5 along the flight path for that runway at O’Hare? Do those towers disrupt radar altimeters?”

      Up until now, 5G service in the US has used different frequencies than the cell towers that were just turned on. The previously used frequencies are far away from those used by Radar Altimeters.

      “Sub-6 GHz 5G (mid-band 5G), by far the most common, will usually deliver between 100 and 4400 Mbps but will have a much further reach than mmWave, especially outdoors. C-Band (n77/n78) will be deployed by various U.S. operators in 2022. C-Band had been planned to be deployed by Verizon and AT&T in early January 2022 but was delayed due to conflicts raised by the Federal Aviation Administration.”,second%20(Mbit%2Fs).

  14. It’s amazing how the government agencies can’t talk to each other and create this mess. Jbeeko described it perfectly, and while I can understand the FCCs desire to use that band, it probably should have notified users years ahead of a possible conflict and urge to update existing systems.

    • I have to wonder if its not a result of the Government being gutted 4 years ago?.

      NPR had a piece on it but I was not able to listen to the whole thing, will see if I can look it up.

        • They drained the swamp , so the alligators took control an extorted the rest of the critters

          • Duke:

            The way I phrase it, they are he Swamp and can’t drain themselves .

  15. When radio altimeter was implemented, I assume FAA has data on interference. Why those frequency isn’t blocked to begin with. If FAA let it out for grab and complaining later, I’m not sure what they were doing all these time.
    Also, if FAA require airplane to install ADS-B, I’m not sure why they can’t proactively mandate altimeter change given public resources is always limited.

    • FCC controls the spectrum. This happened because of a hosed up administration.

      Current is still (trying) stamping out all the fires started.

      • What has not done over the last twelve months is now completed in a matter of days.

        Miracle! Miracle!!


        • I’m referring to the fact:
          FAA has ok’ed over 70% of the commercial fleet

  16. “Despite year-long protests from the World’s airlines and the FAA”

    What has the FAA, the OEMs or the airlines done in all those years to prepare for the introduction of 5G? It somehow seems, all they did was complaining and stalling.

    Maybe it would have been wise to actively search for a solution identify exactly which systems are affected and what those impacts are. Once that is known, it should be possible to define what needs to be upgraded or changed.

    It seems more and more to me, that the FAA is a big old dinosaur that doesn’t want or is unable to perform its duties.

    I’m not implying that the FCC is so much better. If these interferences are so common, shouldn’t the allocation of bandwidth include clear pre-defined blocked margins in the band? Then manufacturers know that they have to design, manufacture and test to that specification, so they stay exactly in their range and not get affected by other signals.

    • Matth:

      FCC was corrupted and it took it getting to the crisis point to get action. Sadly the current administration is fighting fires on all fronts and it has to threaten something major ( like cities or air travel ) to get attention.

      Think of Burshenko (sp?) of the 2017 top 2021 years .

      • FAA, FCC : same issue.
        mix control/supervision with commerce.

        FAA is tasked with airside control, coordination, …
        ( + sane international coordination )
        but also with furthering the US aerospace industry.

        FCC is tasked with frequency assignments ( + sane international coordination )
        but also with auctioning off bandwidth.

        See the clash?
        ( and why the NTSB hasn’t been effected to much yet.)

    • The problem isn’t with the FCC or the FAA. Its the structure of the US Government. The FAA is controlled by the Presidents Cabinet and the FCC is overseen by the US Congress. These are two separate arms of Government that bicker over everything except support of Israel. In a Westminster Style of Government it would not occur nor the European Democracies because the Prime minister rules over the cabinet and all ministries report to that cabinet. In particular the EU Parliament with its obsession over harmonisation of laws and technical standards. Presidents in EU democracies do not have executive powers over ministries but fulfil legal roles in appointing governments.

  17. Some misunderstood things here. As one with some background in radio electronics, can I point out that the problem here should be 100% blamed on the makers of the possibly-affected radio altimeters, and the FAA for certifying them. No part of this should pass to the 5G using telcos, who seem to be the ones currently having to carry the can.

    What were they (the radio altimeter manufacturers, the FAA, and the airlines) thinking by not designing a radio altimeter that could reject spurious signals? It has been obvious for decades that radio frequency spectrum is becoming more and more congested and essential. When you’re allocated a frequency band, you know that there is no spare space outside the band you’ve been allocated, you design your gear with the expectation of all frequencies above and below your band being used too – if not right now, definitely in the future.

    Plus, it is just simple good design to quality control the way the device receives and responds to radio signals, especially for an instrument which may be a pivotal safety element.

    As has been already cited, some radio altimeters were designed and built to an acceptable standard.

    The problem is simply the ones that were not. And with the aviation industry doing nothing for many years, even as the creep of spectrum usage got closer and closer to adjoining their allocation.

    No part of this should be a surprise today. It all should have been handled, years ago, by insisting on radio altimeters designed to best industry practices. The extra cost of doing so is probably under $10 per unit – and I’m guessing the units sell for thousands of dollars each.

    • 100% this. A bit like how aviation took the ADS-B Out requirement right down to the wire.

      • I will counter that with greed on Telecom front who corrupted the process and grabbed that spectrum area and then whine that they can’t use it.

        Let the Telcom industry pay for the conversions, they spent 80 billion on this, they are the cause of the problem.

        As long as Radar Altimeter met spec then its a Telcom problem not an FAA issue (or was not till they tried to kill people)

        Is supposedly faster Snap Chat worth killing people over?

        If Boeing is at fault for the MAX (mostly with FAA contribution ) then the Telcom Industry is at fault here. Put the blame where it belongs.

        The FAA is doing the best it can (amazingly) to protect the public and they have no control over the spectrum.

        Its a perfect example of unrestrained capitalism. See the Robber Barron’s history.

        • “Is supposedly faster Snap Chat worth killing people over?”

          More ignorance of the main benefit of 5G, i.e. a huge revolution in workplace functionality and performance.

          We can equally ask: “Is protecting a passive, incompetent regulator worth killing industrial advancement over?”

          Q: How come 5G isn’t killing people outside the US?
          A: Because — unlike in the US — regulators in other countries aren’t asleep at the wheel.

    • Interesting, in this regard, that the 787 is one of the aircraft (presently) on the “not approved” list — even though it is a more recent plane than many of the other planes on the “approved” list.

    • Is your understanding that the radar altimeter receivers are sensitive to signals outside of their allocated bandwidth. In other words the problem isn’t harmonics from the cellular companies introducing into radar altimeter bandwidth but the radar altimeters being slightly sensitive outside of their allocated bandwidth.

        • Apparently there are some emissions escaping the 5G C band (3.7-3.98GHz) and intruding into the radar altimeter space (4.2-4.4GHz).

          These are referred to ‘spurious transmissions’. One would expect something miniscule from harmonics, its inevitable with impulses and Dirac deltas etc but I’m not sure what ‘spurious’ means.

      • My guess is out of band noise is saturating the
        RA receiver front end..
        ( for the RA receiver the 5G transmission is nothing but rather powerful wideband white noise.)

    • One thing everyone needs to understand is that Certification is meeting a standard, not being fit for purpose. A certificate will always say at it meets a specific standard. There is no way implied that meeting the standard makes the equipment fit for purpose. This is by design: if a certified equipment fails to to its job but meets the standard, the certificate body which issued the certificate is not liable as the certificate is good: it says the equipment meets a standard and it did meet the standard, just that the standard was not good enough. And because standards are coming from standards bodies and are developed by working groups of volunteers, you can not sue anyone for the standard not being good enough because there is no one specifically responsible (the working group proposes and a higher level panel votes yes or no). On the other hand, meeting a standard is often all that is required to get government approval for the use of that equipment.

      So what you have here is radio altimeters being certified under a standard which is not good enough today (note that it was good enough when released) as radio spectrum use has changed.

      In the end, it is a failure of both FCC and FAA to communicate and work together. It is their job to address these kinds of issues as they happen all the time everywhere. In the rest of the world, agencies seem to be able to work together without a problem.

      • I somehow still believe that the manufacturers of those radio altimeters where doing a sloppy job. Yes, it works within the specification, but it seems they are also susceptible to signals outside their allocated band. Previously that wasn’t an obvious problem, as there was nobody using those frequencies, but it was still a ill-designed product.
        If an MD-11 or 747-400 would use such old devices, that were designed during an era when there were many fewer sending devices, I could sort of understand for them to be affected (surprisingly, they seem to be working despite the 5G), yet newer aircraft like the 787 use systems that fail to recognize that the frequency bands become more and more congested, so to better stick to the exact bandwidth allocated.
        I somehow can’t see that it is really the FCCs fault, but more so the manufacturers of this altimeters, that don’t work precise enough. Yes, the FCC and the FAA could have coordinated better, but possibly the FAA should also have pushed harder for a solution. But probably Boeing (aehm, I mean the FAA) was more concerned with shareholder return than a working solution.

        • That is some seriously fuzzy reasoning.

          I am interested in the tech aspects but there is more to the story than you are portending.

          Sometimes old stuff works best.

          Newer stuff can have tech features that make it more prone to other issues because it has to work in a different environment (FBW)

  18. A pre-recorded in-flight message, coming soon to a bunch of flight segments:

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, due to the weather and the restrictions of us using our radar altimeter, our flight will be diverting to an airport which will be completely inconvenient for you. Said inconvenience is a direct result of your cellular provider forcing the governing body of the airlines to make do with whatever bandwidth was left for aircraft, in an effort to give you 5G coverage and increase your cell phone rates.

    Because this diversion is sue to a weather phenomena and governmental regulation we are unfortunately unable to issue compensation to any passenger for meals, hotels or alternate methods of transportation – should you choose to make any. For those who wish to wait around while the weather clears, we will happily fly you to your scheduled destination.

    All claims for losses should be made to the FCC, at which point we heartily encourage you to voice your opinion, as flying has been around much longer than cellular providers.

    Thank you for your understanding in this matter and we hope that you have a wonderful day.”

  19. Regarding the subject of why there is a problem in the US when there is not a problem in other countries where C-Band 5G has been implemented, see the excerpt below from the Air Line Pilots Association web page on the subject at the link after the excerpt.

    ” The 5G signals in the United States are at higher power levels than any other deployment currently in use elsewhere in the world and also with closer proximity to airports.

    Canada has also approved 5G in the C-Band, but with restrictions against using C-Band in the vicinity of 26 airports and other measures to ensure aviation safety.”

    • More from the ALPA web page I referenced above. The following are currently prohibited in the US for ALL aircraft.

      “When operating in U.S. airspace, the following operations requiring radio altimeter are prohibited in the presence of 5G C-Band wireless broadband interference as identified by NOTAM (NOTAMs will be issued to state the specific airports where the radio altimeter is unreliable due to the presence of 5G C-Band wireless broadband interference):

      Instrument Landing System (ILS) Instrument Approach Procedures (IAP) SA CAT I, SA CAT II, CAT II, and CAT III

      Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Procedures with Authorization Required (AR), RNP AR IAP

      Automatic Landing operations

      Manual Flight Control Guidance System operations to landing/head-up display (HUD) to touchdown operation

      Use of Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS) to touchdown under 14 CFR 91.176(a)”

      Aircraft specific information.

      “Airbus has issued Flight Operations Transmission 999.0002/22 (01/10/2022) which describes the currently understood effects of radar altimeter anomalies. Guidance is provided for A320 family, A330, and A340 aircraft for handing these anomalies. No effects are currently expected for A300/A310, A350, and A380 aircraft.

      FAA will be issuing Airworthiness Directive 2022-02-16 specific to the Boeing B787 which affects the MEL and operational procedures associated with Landing Systems and Landing Distance Calculations. This AD will be published on Wednesday 1/19/2022 and will be effective upon publication. B787 crews should be receiving a bulletin which covers these Airplane Flight Manual changes.

      Boeing has issued a Multi-Operator Message (MOM) for Boeing B737 MAX models, outlining high-level pending operational procedures changes for thrust reversers and speedbrake deployment for takeoff and landing, as well as additional vigiliance around autopilot and autothrottle behavior.

      Embraer Flight Operations Letter 170-001/22 and Operational Bulletin 170-001/22 (01/02/2022): Describe the possible effects of C-Band 5G interference on its E170, E175, E190, and E195 aircraft. Note: The FAA has not yet issued ADs based on these bulletins.

      Additional restrictions or limitations will be listed here when they are published.”

    • Re in my post above: “The following are currently prohibited in the US for ALL aircraft.”

      Actually, the listed procedures would not be prohibited for aircraft and altimeter combinations that have demonstrated an alternate means of compliance. The following is from the same ALPA web page that I referenced above.

      “The FAA has developed a process by which better performing radar altimeters that are able to reject 5G interference can be approved to operate without regard to the AD and NOTAMs. These Alternate Methods of Compliance (AMOC) approvals will be specific to a combination of aircraft model and radar altimeter model.

      The method of approval will take into consideration the performance of the aircraft/radar altimeter combination, as well as the location and power of the 5G transmitter in the vicinity of the airport. Therefore, it is possible that AMOCs will be issued with a list of airports where they are effective.”

    • “The 5G signals in the United States are at higher power levels than any other deployment currently in use elsewhere in the world and also with closer proximity to airports.”

      This assertion by ALPA appears to be ill-informed and/or poorly articulated: the difference has to do with the frequencies used — not with “power levels” or “closer proximity” to airports.

      Article: “Europe Has 5G. Here Is Why It Hasn’t Messed Up the Airlines.”

      “In the US, 5G is allocated for a range between 3.7GHz and 3.98GHz, which is closer to the 4.2GHz–4.4GHz frequency for altimeters than in Europe, which has set a 3.4GHz–3.8GHz range for 5G.”

      • I believe it is not solely the lower frequencies used outside the USA but also geographic specific mitigations including appropriate power levels near aiports. So ALPA misses the frequency bands issue but nonetheless is correct.

        It would be understandable if the USA chose higher power outputs given the range limitations of 5G but also of course, as things currently stand, a disjointed failure.

        • Do you have a reference to back up the assertion that 5G signals in tbe US are at “higher power levels” than in tbe EU?

          • Hello Bryce,

            Re: “Do you have a reference to back up the assertion that 5G signals in tbe US are at “higher power levels” than in tbe EU?”

            The excerpts below are from the FAA web page at the link after the excerpts. According to a graphic on the web page, the transmitter power level in France is 631 Watts, while the temporary REDUCED power level that US telecommunications companies have agreed to is 1,585 Watts.

            “Because the proposed 5G deployment involves a new combination of power levels, frequencies, proximity to flight operations, and other factors, the FAA will need to impose restrictions on flight operations using certain types of radar altimeter equipment close to antennas in 5G networks. ”

            “Planned buffer zones for U.S. airports only protect the last 20 seconds of flight, compared to a greater range in the French environment.

            5G power levels are lower in France. In the U.S., even the planned temporary nationwide lower power levels will be 2.5x higher than in France.

            In France, the government required that antenna must be tilted downward to limit harmful interference. Similar restrictions do not apply to the U.S. deployment.”


  20. FAA seems to have NO veto power over frequency use.
    ( They do have veto powers inside their domain: see formerly disallowed private RF devices on airplanes.)

    Can we see the “disallow” move as a decidedly less palatable but workable fix?

    Is this also an “out of band” pressuring via airlines into the political landscape?

    • Well, why should they have a veto power over frequencies outside their allocated band with a separation to others bands that are sufficient for well designed equipment? The problem was the FAA was not pro-active about ensuring that all aircraft had altimeters that would to function reliably as the spectrum got more congested. Earlier and urgent testing was required with mandates to replace affected altimeters. Instead they delayed and are now playing the “aviation is special” card.

      Who should have paid is another issue, but there was 90billion available to cover some of the costs.

      • jbeeko:

        The sale took place in 2020. So how is the FAA supposed to fix this amidst a greedy and corrupted administration that is all transactional?

        The issue was raised and due to a hosed up administration, indeed a deliberately corrupt one, you are saying the citizens of Belarus are responsible for Burhshenko ()sp?)

        Put the blame where it belongs.

        The FAA did not cause this problem.

        • “The sale took place in 2020. So how is the FAA supposed to fix this amidst a greedy and corrupted administration that is all transactional?”

          The FAA — once it woke up — managed to give a green light to the altimeters in 62% of the US fleet in just the last TWO DAYS. So a year was more than enough.


          “The FAA did not cause this problem.”

          This is an amusing attitude: is a certifying and oversight body like the FAA only expected to solve the problems that it itself causes?
          So, all the ADs that it issues relate to problems that it itself caused…?

          • Thing is – the FAA has some control over the aircraft that they certify for air travel. Case in point: the Max. Airlines weren’t allowed to fly them without the say so of the FAA.

            We are not sure of the details, but did anyone at the FCC approach the FAA and ask them:

            “Hey – we’re selling these bandwidths, that OK with you guys?”

            Did they have to read about it in the news?

            There’s a case to be made that nobody at the FCC asked the question “Who are we going to effect by doing this?” or maybe they did and the answer was “Who cares. I’m outta here, anyways…give me my money”

  21. This isn’t the first time that the FCC has ignored safety concerns of the FAA and other government agencies and allowed a new service of of the telecommunications industry that it caters to and appears to be afraid of opposing, to start a new service that has the potential to interfere a navigation service that has been in use for decades, that has an installed base of tens or hundreds of thousands of navigation devices that would take years to upgrade, replace or modify, and that didn’t have a problem with interference from approved frequency uses at the time the system and in use devices were designed and purchased. The objections of the Secretary of Defense, the FAA, IAIA, AOPA, Garmin, Trimble, DOT, and the head architect of the GPS system were overruled in favor of the opinions esteemed technical experts of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr.

    “Ligado received FCC’s unanimous approval for use of spectrum near the L-bands used by GPS signals for their 5G networks in April 2020. The decision came after letters from the Department of Defense and members of congress suggested that the company using spectrum would interfere with military capabilities. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned of the risks, and a spokesman for the Pentagon argued that the request should be denied. The request was also opposed by Iridium Communications and the Federal Aviation Administration.[16][17]

    After the FCC approval, Bradford Parkinson, lead architect of the Global Positioning System and member of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing, said that the FCC had made a “grave error” in their approval. An advisory committee agreed that the approval was a risk.[18] Major aviation associations including the Air Line Pilots Association, International, Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and others all filed statements in opposition to the order. Other major GPS users, including Lockheed, Garmin, Trimble, and others also filed statements in opposition. Additionally, after the ruling, the Department of Defense and Department of Transportation issued a joint statement of opposition; the latter noted safety losses from impacts to E-911 service. The HASC committee chairman, Rep. Adam Smith called it a security risk.[17][18][19]

    In early May, the SASC held a hearing on the effects of the decision. Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, Chairman Sen. James Inhofe charged FCC, stating “a few powerful people made a hasty decision over the weekend, in the middle of a national crisis, against the judgment of every other agency involved”. The DOD said they had filed multiple objections and believed the license would be denied. The DOD objected to a draft of the approval in October 2019 and communicated this back to the FCC, who shared their rejection with Ligado. The FCC was not invited to participate; it is overseen by another committee. Ligado was also not invited to participate, which their CEO and Chairman both complained about in a joint statement. The following day, the HASC wrote a letter on behalf of the entire committee denouncing the decision and asking oversight questions. HASC and FCC participated in a conference call on May 21. On the following day, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration formally petitioned the FCC to request for a reversal of the decision. Ligado stated AG William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others supported their license. On May 26, Pai responded to the HASC, commenting on the interagency conflict and defending their decision.[20][21][22][23][24]

    In June 2020, Sen. Inhofe proposed legislation requiring Ligado to be liable for costs associated with their impact to GPS reception for any user of the service.[25] Rep. Michael Turner added language to the annual defense funding bill that would effectively ban Ligado from receiving contracts with DoD, and Sen. Inhofe did the same in their version of the bill.[26][27] Members of the HASC asked for an investigation into Dennis Roberson, who is both the head of FCC’s Technical Advisory Council and the head of Roberson and Associates, which provided a report to the FCC on Ligado’s behalf.[28] The Keep GPS Working Coalition was created in late June, representing a broad range of industries including the Boat Owners Association, AOPA, AFBF, and others.”

    • In its never ending quest to give the telecommunications industry everything it wants on a silver plate over the objections of users of safety critical navigation systems, the FCC has apparently abandoned the safety margin standards that were in use at the time that the systems and millions of in use receivers were designed, in favor of a standard of “Broadcast until it Breaks”, i.e. until or unless an interference problem causes a plane crash that kills a few hundred people, there is no interference problem that the FCC needs to address.

      “The requirements are necessary because the FCC disregarded the established yardstick for protecting GPS in favor of one based on harmful interference. That is, interference that is allowed until it is bad enough that receivers aren’t working right.

      In other words: interference is OK up to the point that it isn’t. Once it starts breaking things, you look at how to keep them from breaking.

      The globally accepted criterion for protecting GPS has long been a one-decibel (1 dB) degradation of C/N0, the carrier-to-noise power density ratio. This is also called an Interference Protection Criterion or IPC.

      This is a way of describing the strength of the GPS signal relative to the surrounding noise. The strength of the GPS signal can naturally vary a bit (the signals come from moving satellites) and the surrounding noise can vary as well. GPS experts use this combined, easy-to-measure criterion to determine how much signal noise you can add and still have receivers work reliably.

      Reliability is key. The C/N0 approach includes a bit of margin to allow for the natural fluctuations and challenges that crop up (like heavy tree cover) that impair signal reception. Why? You don’t want an essential or safety-of-life system depending on an unreliable receiver. Positive train control uses GPS to help prevent collisions between moving trains and protect those working alongside the tracks.. There are over 1.5 million drones registered in the United States and GPS-based geofencing automatically keeps them away from airports and collisions with manned aircraft.

      GPS is a National Critical Function, according to the Department of Homeland Security, upon which the vast majority of critical infrastructure relies. So, in the same way that civil engineers build in margin to keep drivers safe on a suspension bridge being hit by high winds, spectrum engineers keep people safe by building safety margin into GPS interference measurements.

      That margin that will largely disappear under the FCC’ s decision.”

      The excerpt above is from the following link.

      The excerpt in my preceding post above was from Wikipedia.

    • Nor is it the 2nd time US gov also sold part of the spectrum occupied by the B2s radar

  22. Newsweek: “Boeing Takes Hit as Its 777, 787 Planes Appear Susceptible to 5G Network”

    “The FAA said the new 5G signals could interfere with the Boeing 787’s and 777’s airplanes systems using radio altimeters, which indicate how far a plane is off the ground while in the air, according to a statement Friday.”

    “Boeing has announced restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have canceled or changed the aircraft for some flights to/from the U.S. based on the announcement by Boeing,” Japan’s All Nippon said, according to the AP.”

    • Good link. You can always count on Tim Clark for the unbridled truth. I wish more aviation executives were like him.


      Miles: Your contact email is false, so for now you are suspended from commenting. If you want to return, email me with a valid email. If you make one more comment with the deleted phrase, you are banned for life. Hamilton

      • {This comment is deleted because the reference to which it was made was deleted as well. Without context, this comment makes no sense.]

  23. Quoting an article from January 18, 2021 in the last days of the last administration >

    [The US Federal Communications Commission is seeing a record $80.9bn (€67bn) in its latest 5G spectrum auction.
    The auction, the last before chairman Ajit Pai steps down on Wednesday when president-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, is for 280MHz in the 3.7-3.98 GHz C-band.]
    [“These results represent a strong endorsement by the private sector of the service rules and transition plan put in place by the FCC to quickly make the C-band a critical part of 5G rollout in the United States,” he said. ” And they vindicate the hard choices the FCC made during the C-band proceeding—and that we made them. The FCC confronted a host of technical, legal, practical, and political challenges in structuring this auction. It would have been easy to delay. But we rightly pushed ahead and overcame every one of those obstacles. As a result, we significantly advanced United States leadership in 5G and have enabled America’s wireless consumers to more quickly benefit from 5G services.” ]
    It seems some money was banked by the last administration and technical issues left to resolve for the current administration. That’s been the pattern.

    • “As a result, we significantly advanced United States leadership in 5G…”

      What leadership? 40 other countries have had it up and running flawlessly for more than a year.

      • “As a result, we significantly advanced United States leadership in 5G…”

        Causing flights suspension, cargo flights diversion.

        Shows others what state the first world superpower is in.

    • Per Tim Clark:

      – *”the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere.*

      – *”the antenna themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position*, which then taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems but the flight control systems on the fly by wire aircraft.

    • “Nothing is more important than safety at Boeing”

      Cough, cough.

      If you sit at the top, you drown in your own propaganda.

  24. Forbes: “FAA Raises Share Of Commercial Airplanes Deemed Safe From 5G Interference To 62% Of U.S. Fleet – Including Boeing 777”–including-boeing-777/?sh=3a4fdf9912a8

    Isn’t it remarkable that the FAA is only scrambling to do these analyses now? It’s been known for YEARS that these new 5G frequencies were in the pipeline.
    And a particular commenter here thinks that the FAA is some sort of gold standard?

    • I was asked by a reporter why the FAA waited so long on 5G. My response: Nobody died. The FAA’s nickname is the Tombstone Agency. It only acts after someone dies.

      • It only acts after someone _in the US_ dies.

        All other murder/death/kill is shrugged away.

  25. Huge vote of Appreciation to AP Roberts for his very well informed facts and presentations of those facts.

    I think Leeham should hire him!

    He would be the perfect compliment to Bjorn.

    • One person sides with the FAA, and opines that the FCC is greedy and reckless.
      Another person could equally posit that the FCC is progressive, and that the FAA is conservative, timid and out-of-touch.
      Yet another person discerns hierin a dysfuncional mess (and international embarassment) in which both bodies are guilty of hubris, ignorance and lack of transparent communication.

      The saga can be viewed from many different perspectives.
      However, one over-arching aspect of this mess is that it once again shows us a stark-naked emperor.

  26. A pre-Christmas article in Forbes suggests that this 5G mess in the USA won’t be resolved for YEARS:
    “Aviation Concerns About 5G Will Take Years To Resolve”

    “An updated technical standard is being developed, but it will not be complete until early 2023. Only after the standard is in place will new equipment be built and certified. And then it will take many more years to install the new equipment.”

    “New altimeters based on a new 5G standard would normally not be designed, certified, manufactured and available in quantity until 2026 -2027. The process can be accelerated, but it will still take years to reequip all aircraft.”

    • On the other had the FAA has ok’ed over 70% of the commercial fleet in the past week. That tends to suggest they could have helped avoid a lot of the confusion and uncertainty if they had started the process years ago.

    The Airbus – Qatar honeymoon is well and truly over!

    “PARIS, Jan 20 (Reuters) – Airbus said on Thursday it had cancelled a contract with Qatar Airways for 50 A321neo jets, broadening a $600-million-plus dispute with the Gulf carrier over the larger A350.”


    “Airbus has terminated the order from Qatar Airways for fifty A321neo’s. According to reports from Bloomberg and Reuters, the airframer revealed this during a scheduling session at the London High Court on January 20, in preparation for the case that covers the dispute over the A350 paint quality.

    Airbus has subsequently confirmed its order position, reports Reuters, referring to the contractual right to terminate the contract. Qatar Airways has not responded to the announcement. The decision of the airframer is highly unusual. In 2014, Airbus terminated a contract with Japanese carrier Skymark over its financial ability to purchase four A380s, but usually, it’s the airline or lessor that terminates a contract.

    The termination confirms how deep Airbus and Qatar Airways are now embroiled on the A350 issue.”,covers%20the%20dispute%20over%20the%20A350%20paint%20quality.

    • I guess some customers just aren’t worth it. Quite the power play by Airbus.

      • If AB also cancels Qatar’s remaining A350 orders, then that will free up some early frames for Tim Clark 😉
        Also plenty of customers waiting for A321s 😉

        • Airbus alleges Qatar Airways “sought to engineer or has acquiesced” in the groundings because it’s in the airline’s economic interests to idle planes “given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic” on demand, Bloomberg reports.

          • Pretty serious accusation.
            It certainly isn’t inconceivable, given the fact that no regulator outside Qatar has labeled this as a safety issue.

            Al Baker is now in a bit of a pickle. He can order more 787s, but will have to be content with the fact that they are exclusively manufactured in FODville. He can also order more 777X’s, but will then have to face the possibility that that plane is never going to be certified (still no TIA). For NB, he’ll have to be content with the MAX.
            Or he can (partially) stick with AB, but will have to lease…or borrow frames from daughter airlines.

            Whichever way he goes, I hope he’s happy with what he’s achieved.

            (Scott: same Bryce, new email)

  28. From the FAA web page at the link below as of 7:44 PM US MT on 1-20-22.

    “Models with one of 13 cleared altimeters include:

    All Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787
    All Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, A350, A380
    Some Embraer 170 & 190 regional jets”

    “Progress during the two-week deployment delay
    Delaying 5G deployment for two weeks allowed the FAA, the aviation community and wireless companies to reduce the risk of delays and cancellations.

    During that time, the FAA has:

    Received vital 5G transmitter location and power level information from the wireless companies

    Facilitated data sharing between avionics manufacturers and wireless companies

    Worked with airlines to help manage and minimize potential delays and cancellations in affected areas.

    Determined that some GPS-guided approaches may be used at certain airports

    Educated aviation stakeholders about what they can expect when 5G C-band is deployed on Jan. 19

    Worked with airlines on how they can demonstrate altimeters are safe and reliable in certain 5G C-band environments. This is known as the Alternative Method of Compliance (AMOC) process.”

    I believe that I read somewhere that until recently the wireless companies had refused to share information on transmitter locations, power levels and other technical details with aviation manufacturers and airlines since they considered this proprietary information, and that this was making it impossible for aviation manufacturers to conduct detailed analysis of the risk of interference effects. When I get some time I am going to do some searching to see if I can find something that documents this.

    • Missing from the list of approved aircraft as of late PM 1-20-22 in my post above are some regional aircraft types that are still in use in significant numbers in the US: Bombardier Q400’s and CRJ’s, and Embraer’s pre E-Jet ERJ’s.

    • -> EASA and Boeing are locked in a deeper than usual debate over engineering that will determine whether extra safeguards are needed for the jet’s flight control system, the people said.

      -> EASA has laid out an approach that could effectively force Boeing to add an extra fallback to guarantee that a single failure cannot trigger simultaneous outages – a setup known as “dissimilarity.” Or, Boeing could try to prove that the current system is safe with analysis.

      -> Boeing disagrees with EASA’s call for additional safeguards, arguing it would amount to having two systems provided by two separate suppliers running in parallel and risks introducing new problems by adding complexity, the people said.

      -> On 787, factory changes and other requirements to overcome tiny structural flaws have raised longer-term questions over Boeing’s ability to build 787s at a sufficiently low cost and at the rates once planned, a person familiar with the matter said.

      • Hight time to drag BA into the 21st century.
        Shoddy control theory, longstanding autothrottle issues, longstanding autopilot issues on 777s, glossed-over load test failures, pickle fork issues, substandard ILS systems on 787s…a litany of shortcomings.

        • Very hard for me to believe BA’s promise that EK delivery is on schedule by 2023. 😂

          BA is paying AMR for 787 delivery delay. How much has BA budgeted to compensate Chinese airlines’ MAX and 787 (not an insignificant amount I guess)??

      • “a setup known as “dissimilarity”

        Airbus FBW setup from day one.
        afair one 68k and one x86 cpu.

        long time ago: our “reliable connection” for a mag lev light “rail” system used pseudo random code on one side created vi shift/xor hardware while the opposite side used a table driven generator.

    • More on this subject:

      “Most potential audiences will be aware of the Boeing 737 MAX scandal: planes so potentially dangerous that pilots refused to even fly them back to their hangars to be grounded. It takes the experienced hand of director Rory Kennedy and her collaborator Keven McAlester (under the aegis of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at Imagine) to distill all the volumes of dry reportage on this cover-up into a must-see documentary which is conventional to a fault but about as solid an indictment of corporate greed as could be wished for. ”

  29. Could it be that the aviation industry is over regulated, which leads to a slowdown of innovation and progress?
    How many real experts are there with in-depth knowledge of certifying new systems?
    It seems under huge pressure, the FAA can clear systems in a few days, where before it was impossible for 1-2 years? Is it that the hurdle to certify (or give the OK) is so unsurmountable high, that nobody is interested in making an attempt? Could it be that certain innovations are simply not attempted, cos it’s too costly and complicated?

    Plus, for existing older systems, the manufacturer has little incentive to invest more resources if that is not covered with future income.

    • “Could it be that the aviation industry is over regulated, which leads to a slowdown of innovation and progress?”

      The industry is certainly over-conservative, and the degree/type of regulation tends to smother innovation.
      Where that’s concerned, it will be interesting to see what fresh approaches are brought by the Chinese/Russians.
      A small example: in the Irkut MC-21, the aisle is wide enough to allow a passenger to pass alongside a trolley. It facilitates boarding/de-boarding, and is a plus in the event of an evacuation. Why hasn’t that been tried in recent models in the “west”?

      An Indonesian carrier (AirNusa) is about to take delivery of the first of 20 COMAC ARJ21s, even though the plane hasn’t been certified by the FAA or EASA. In that regard, the MAX debacle has done irreparable damage to the basic concept of western regulation.

      • the Irkut MC-21, the aisle is wide enough to allow a passenger to pass alongside a trolley.

        That’s a very good question and I think the answer can be derived from a simple comparison with other industries;

        Take a look at McDonalds – the fast food chain. They count pennies. Fractions of pennies. It’s one of the reasons that they went from preparing food ahead of time and storing it in a warm area, to making each item to order. I know this because as a kid I worked at one, back in the day – when we were ordered to ‘lay 12 regs’ (12 single meat patties) and then they were stored for a max of 20 minutes. After that time – they were waste. Loss of money…

        Every square foot of space is accounted for and calculated.

        What extra space does a cart with pax space cost? 12 inches – the length of the aircraft?

        That’s lost revenue space. Also, for any comparable aircraft (pax #’s) it has to punch a larger hole in the air. And it’s heavier, because you have a foot more space of material.

        There’s an engineer in here somewhere, who used to get a budget of $10,000 for every pound of weight he could shave off an airframe.

        It’s all about keeping costs as low as possible.

        • @Frank: On the right theory but pointing to the wrong cost. The MC-21 wider aisle is not about lost revenue. It’s about added cost. The balance of his conclusion is spot on.

          • From an accounting perspective, it’s both sides of the same coin. It is a cost center, unless it is used to produced revenue. The aisle is non-revenue generating. If you looked at it from a managerial point of view, you’d get something like this:

            (Just throwing out some numbers)

            Let’s say each seat took up 2 feet of space, the width of the aircraft. The aisle is 3 feet. 6 seats, you have 12 feet of rev space and 3 feet of non-rev space. Each of the 6 seats use the aisle space equally, so they each get .5 ft expense added to their cost. (cost accounting courses triggered)


            What if you could put in aisle seats that are 2.5 ft wide each and sell those seats for an added $50.

            So you now have 4 seats at 2 ft and 2 seats at 2.5 ft and an aisle of 2 ft.

            All of a sudden you’ve changed 1 foot of a dedicated cost center, into a revenue center. If you don’t, you lose the $100 of potential revenue.

            (now the shitty part becomes the arguments between the managers of the six seats, two of which who want all costs to be divided by six because – after all, there are six seats!!! The other 4 want it to be based upon space, because goddamit, we are using 2 feet of space and they are using half a foot more!!! But I digress)

            There’s even ANOTHER way to look at it;

            Let’s say Bryce started an airline called Bryce Airways. His hook was;

            “Here at Bryce, we offer AN EXTRA foot of room in the aisle, so people can pass each other, you can get past the food cart and generally have a better flying experience, all for a nominal charge”

            and Bryce an charged $20 extra per seat for this, over what the competition charges.

            Going back to our example, each seat now generates an extra $120 in revenue, because of that increase in 12 inches at the aisle. So the space on the aisle technically becomes a revenue center.

            (assuming he could pull it off and actually sells seats for the premium price)

            You are increasing your costs by having a wider space and not using it. You also lose revenue by letting space go to waste.

            (See that corner over there, in the back of the kitchen? Let’s move the mop and bucket out of it, put in a slush machine and make it revenue generating space. We’re paying for it, so might as well… )

            I’m not up on regs, but I’m guessing that there is a certain amount of floor space that, by law – must be kept clear (and therefore not revenue generating).

            I wonder if it’s against the law to sell the carpet space as advertising to a non-related company? Imagine if Delta Airlines had an agreement with Ford to put the automakers logo every two feet on the aisle? Has anyone ever tried this?

            Get them to pay for the carpet, pay for the cleaning AND an added fee for being on all of their 800 or so aircraft.

            I just remembered why I got out of accounting…

          • @ Frank
            “The aisle is non-revenue generating”

            The aisle doesn’t generate revenue — but it does *facilitate* revenue generation.
            The toilets and overhead bins also don’t generate revenue, but they’re a bare necessity in order to attract real-life passengers.
            Similarly, IFE system also don’t nominally generate revenue, but they’re a perk that can attract passengers to airline A rather than airline B.
            A wider aisle is not the “be all and the end all”, but it does increase comfort for both passengers and crew. And if it can manage to decrease turnaround time by 5-10 minutes, then it can lead to extra revenue. Just as we all rave about the extra comfort/space in the A380 and A220, I can also imagine that passengers might be enamored of the spaciousness of the MC-21 — and potentially go out of their way to fly on one. Such preferential loyalty indirectly generates revenue.

            The wider aisle doesn’t necessarily have to lead to higher overall costs: if the MC-21 has a lower purchase price, that may offset the (theoretically) higher operating costs due to the “dud” aisle space.

            At the very least, it’s “ballsy” and fresh of the Russians to try this.

      • TransNusa is 35% owned by lessor CALC, which is providing the ARJ21 to the airline. It’s a family deal, not arm’s length.

        • Even so, the Indonesian regulator appears to be willing to certify the ARJ21 without any such prior approval by the FAA/EASA.
          That’s an interesting development.

          • @Bryce

            It’s been reported, Leo Budiman, who owns 51% of the airline, paid a visit to COMAC back in May 2017:

            According to a press release at the time, ‘Mr. Leo Budiman expressed optimism about the market prospect of ARJ21 aircraft in Southeast Asia. He told the reporter: “At present, the mainstream models in Southeast Asia are Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320. Although ARJ21 has been in route operation not long, * this aircraft is very suitable for flying such routes as in Indonesia where there is a lot of islands, and its competitiveness will not lose to other models.* ” Mr. Leo Budiman expressed that Indonesia has great potential in aviation market and has unique advantages in developing regional aviation, and airlines in Indonesia will further expand the scope of cooperation with COMAC in order to achieve mutual benefits and a win-win situation.’

            Finally, they figured out a way of financing to make it works.

            IIRC, William Boeing of Boeing Airplane & Transport Corporation teamed up with Pratt & Whitney to form a large, vertically-integrated, amalgamated firm, uniting business interests in all aspects of aviation—a combination of aircraft engine and airframe manufacturing and airline business (predecessor of the United Airlines).

            An interesting, historic lesson at a certain stage of development of the industry.

  30. More on the Airbus-Qatar standoff: A formal statement by Qatar.

    Interesting excerpt:
    “…For this reason, all affected aircraft remain grounded, and we are unable to accept delivery of further aircraft tendered for delivery by Airbus. Airbus has responded by seeking to cancel an entirely separate contract for the delivery of 50 A321 Neo aircraft. We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts. It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute.”

    “Regret and frustration” indeed! AAB didn’t foresee this!

    • Informative background on common aircraft painting problems:

      “Common problems that may occur during the painting of almost any project but are particularly noticeable and troublesome on the surfaces of an aircraft include poor adhesion, blushing, pinholes, sags and/or runs, “orange peel,” fisheyes, sanding scratches, wrinkling, and spray dust.”

      The Qatar issue is clearly a question of poor adhesion. It seems plausible to address this by altering the chemical constitution of the topcoat and/or primer. Also possible is a treatment of the copper lightning conductor mesh prior to painting: copper oxides tend to adhere poorly to copper and can de-laminate therefrom, taking any top coatings with them. There are commercially available copper adhesion enhancers.

      One way or another, AAB would do better to just submit the affected frames to Airbus for re-painting and see what the outcome is: posturing isn’t going to solve the problem at all.

      Boeing is re-painting 787 wings for several airlines as a result of very extensive paint de-lamination issues. This happens at Boeing’s expense, and with minimal fuss. AAB could learn a lesson from that.

  31. Al Baker is a big mouth, born with a golden oily spoon in it. Airbus said all their proposals to correct the problem are being sidelined. That said, the damage to these aircraft looks significant & irritating & Akbar didn’t do it..

    • All the more reason to submit to whatever (free) remedy Airbus is offering…just like the other airlines affected.

  32. -> Since 2017 the FAA has required inspections of 757s for cracking of certain fuselage frame inner chords. It now proposes to expand those inspections to additional areas on the planes based on reports of new crack findings.

    -> An operator found four cracks ranging from 0.10 to 2.00 inches in length in the station (STA) 1380 frame web and two cracks ranging from 1.00 to 2.12 inches in length in the frame inner chord. The airplane had 23,005 total flight cycles at the time of the crack findings.

    • Hello Pedro,

      The following from the twitter link you provided gives Kalitta’s explanation for why they will be discontinuing 767 operations.

      “The move is to ensure sufficient crew staffing on upcoming 777 deliveries and its current 747 fleet.

      Source: Company email forwarded to ACN.”

      According to Wikipedia Kaliita has one 777F and five 777-300ER/SF on order.

      The following is from the Kaliita air web site.

      “We operate an all-freighter fleet of 777F’s, B747-400’s and B767-300ER’s with an acquisition plan in place to rapidly expand our entire fleet. Our fleet of all Boeing freighters are fully certified Cat II and III approaches to go to the lowest of visibility weather minimums, and are Stage III noise compliant. Whether your demands are for short haul, long haul, or the need to move the odd shaped cargo that requires a nose loader, we have the right aircraft for your demands.”

      • Hi, I don’t understand. What’s the connection between 767 crew and 777 crew, do they share a common type rating?

        • Hello Pedro,

          Re: “What’s the connection between 767 crew and 777 crew, do they share a common type rating?”

          I don’t know personally about the situation at Kalitta; however, my understanding of the post was that they just don’t have enough pilots to fly both the 767’s and incoming 777’s, and they decided to fly the 777’s. In the US lots of major carrier pilots took advantage of early retirement offers during the worst of the COVID pandemic and now there is a hiring boom at the majors after traffic came roaring back, and aircraft operators that are seen by pilots as being less desirable places to work than the majors are having trouble hiring pilots faster than they leave. Five year captain pay for 777 is $250 per hour at Kalitta vs. $333 per hour at United according to First year pay at Kalitta compares more favorably to the majors, but long term pay prospects are better at the majors. The major’s regionals are cutting routes because the majors have hired away so many of their pilots that they do not have enough to fly all their planes.

          See the excerpt below from a story at the Skift website at the link after the story.

          “Airlines are already being forced to cut flights on account of staffing shortfalls. Delta Air Lines has reduced regional flying by 20-25 percent from planned levels during the first half of 2022 as a result, President Glen Hauenstein said during the carrier’s fourth quarter earnings call on January 13. United Airlines has been forced to park more than 100 small jets, end service to at least eight destinations, and suspend multiple routes due to the shortage with the airline informing many airports that it may not return until 2023. And American Airlines, while its schedule appears less impaired, CEO Doug Parker has confirmed that it too faces challenges hiring pilots at its wholly-owned regional affiliates.

          The pandemic exacerbated existing pilot supply issues in the U.S. While airlines avoided involuntary furloughs thanks to federal Covid-19 relief funds, they still pruned their ranks of pilots, flight attendants, and other trained staff through voluntary departure packages and early retirements. These departures were necessary to help mitigate the immediate, deep losses carriers faced. Then, when travelers began returning in droves, major carriers turned to their long-standing pool of new pilots: Regional airlines.”

          • More on the current pilot shortage in the US.

            “The U.S. pilot shortage has reached upstart Breeze Airways.

            Facing the same issues as many of its peers, the ultra-low-cost carrier last month increased the pay for its pilots, and, in a controversial move, is actively recruiting pilots from Australia to fill its flight decks.

            “We’re casting a wide net,” Chris Owens, Breeze’s vice president of flight operations, said in an interview with TPG. “There’s a limited supply of highly qualified pilots and a huge demand for highly qualified pilots.”

            “The pay increases are more significant for pilots who fly the carrier’s Airbus A220 fleet, which is expected to enter service in the second quarter of this year. First-year first officers move from $55 a flight hour to $68 a flight hour, an increase of 24%. Pay then increases an average of 25% a year for each year of seniority. First-year captains move from $117 a flight hour to $131 a flight hour, an increase of 12%. Pay will then increase an average of 27% a year for each year of seniority.”

            For comparison, first year pay at Delta is $92 per flight hour for first officers on all aircraft types then goes to $128 per hour for A220 first officers in year 2. Delta A220 captains make $238 per flight hour in year 1 and $240 per flight hour in year 2. The A220 is Delta’s lowest paying aircraft. First year captain pay on the A350, Delta’s highest paying aircraft, is $325 per flight hour. If you want to entrust your life to first officers who couldn’t make the cut to make $92 per flight hour in their first year at Delta instead of $68 per flight hour at Breeze, or $238 per flight hour as a first year A220 captain at Delta instead of $131 per flight hour at Breeze, then go fly Breeze instead of Delta.


          • Does the 1500h rule (additionally) hamper new recruitment?

          • The problem is the mainlines retire and let go their longest serving and highest paid pilots in last two years to lower cost. Now they all go for regional pilots. Short-tern thinking: to rob Peter to pay Paul.

            Delta and Breeze fly their A220 from different bases. * Cost of living varies greatly from crowded metropolises to less-crowded smaller cities and towns. *

            Breeze is opening new routes linking up unserved city pairs, do flyers really have a choice???

            Those who are disconnected from reality can’t see what’s on the ground and talk empty words.

          • Double whammy!! It’s not just a shortage of pilots, also hit by 5G rollout (and inaction by Fed agencies).

            -> ” 5G rollout is disrupting regional air travel, here’s why After a weekend of fog/low visibility at Sea-Tac airport, @AlaskaAir reports 5G-related cancellations, delays and diversions affecting its regional flights


          • @AP

            According to this report, pilot shortage mostly affects regional airlines, *not 767/777/A220 pilots*.

            -> ” In the U.S., the shortage is being felt most in pilot staffing at *regional carriers*.


  33. Below are some excerpts from a 2-3-22 article on “The Hill” website (as in US Capitol Hill) about hearings held by the US House Aviation Committee on 2-3-22 on the problems caused for aviation by the recent activation of new 5G frequencies in the US. See the links after the excerpt for the full story. The FCC Commissioner could not be bothered to attend.

    “Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, criticized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approving the sale of C-band spectrum to telecoms last year without taking input from FAA officials who have been warning of potential disruptions as far back as 2015.

    “It’s a pattern of ignoring consequences beyond the consequences to the profitability of the telecom industry, that’s their only focus,” DeFazio said of the FCC, whose chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel was invited to the hearing but did not attend, citing a scheduling conflict.

    “Having a dropped call is way less serious than having a dropped airline out of the sky,” DeFazio added.”

    “FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told lawmakers that the FCC was slow to deliver data about how 5G C-Band interacts with airplane instruments.

    “As it turns out, the FCC didn’t even have the data that we needed,” Dickson said. “We discovered that when we started to work directly with the telecommunications companies. They never had to provide this to the government.”

    • The entire saga should deeply embarrass both the FCC and the FAA. The FCC should have worked more to engage the FAA and the FAA should have stopped blustering and accepted that the bandwidth would be allocated (we all want to use our phones for more and more things) and started a process to determine what was needed for safe operations. Instead it seems just now is the FAA starting the process of test flights and standards creation. As for the cost, some of the 90 billion generated by that sale could have been allocated to cover cost to the aviation industry.

      A pox on them both I say.

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