The introduction of 5G networks has sparked an intense debate about their potential interference with aircraft systems. There has been a lot of research showing that these networks could indeed interfere with aircraft radars and other navigation equipment, and this is why the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin AIR-21-18R2 to urge manufacturers to develop mitigations such as electronic filters to address the issue.
The FAA also asked pilots to report instances of suspected 5G interference on the FAA’s “Report a Radio Altimeter Anomaly” website, and in response, Aviation International News (AIN) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for reports of radio altimeter anomalies through 2022. The results uncovered 143 reports in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration‘s Aviation Safety Reporting System database.
These reports included issues such as turbulence, GPS problems, autopilot nosing down close to ground level, autothrottle shutoffs and HUD anomalies which made it almost impossible for pilots to use them properly. Some reports even mentioned autoland approaches failing due to potential 5G issues; most commonly from Part 121 airline operations while business jet operators don’t appear affected or aren’t reporting their experiences.
The introduction and running of 5G networks can directly link back to aviation safety and performance, as there is evidence pointing towards potentially harmful effects for aircraft navigation when travelling through areas that have high levels of cellular network traffic. While current regulations are in place protecting aircraft against major sources of interference from cell towers, the FAA requires further testing in order to gain better insight into how wireless networks interact with various avionics systems installed on board aircraft today.
In preparation for any further possible impacts, experts recommend that aircraft owners and operators remain vigilant in monitoring their radars for any signs of interference so that they can take necessary action if needed. Additionally, manufacturers should continue research into mitigation technology such as using electronic filters so that they can guarantee safe operations regardless of the number 5G users on board an airplane at any given time.