from the it's-all-up-in-the-air dept.
Emirates President: the 5G Snafu is the Biggest Screwup I've Witnessed in My Career
Emirates president: The 5G snafu is the biggest screwup I've witnessed in my career:
The president of Emirates tells CNN that the airline was not aware of some of the potential 5G rollout issues until yesterday morning, calling the situation "one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible" he has seen in his aviation career.
[...] Emirates president Tim Clark said that they were not aware of the issues until yesterday morning "to the extent that it was going to compromise the safety of operation of our aircraft and just about every other 777 operator to and from the United States and within the United States."
Transportation regulators had already been concerned that the version of 5G that was scheduled to be switched on could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears — despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.
Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports — not air travelers' mobile devices — could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment. (Radar altimeters differ from standard altimeters, which rely on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to gauge altitude.)
International Airlines Suspend Some US Flights Over 5G Uncertainty
International airlines suspend some US flights over 5G uncertainty:
Major international airlines are scrambling to modify or cancel flights to the United States amid uncertainty about potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and critical airplane technologies.
Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways all announced changes to some flights, citing the issue.
Emirates said it would suspend flights into nine US airports: Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. It said it would continue flying into New York's John F. Kennedy airport, Los Angeles International and Washington Dulles.
"We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible," Emirates said in its statement.
Air India said it would suspend service between Delhi and San Francisco, Chicago and JFK. It will also suspend a Mumbai to Newark flight. It will continue to fly into Washington Dulles.
Both ANA and Japan Airlines said they canceled some flights to the United States scheduled to use Boeing 777 aircraft, but will operate some flights using Boeing 787s instead.
Germany's Lufthansa canceled a flight between Frankfurt and Miami. It said it would swap Boeing 747-8 aircraft for 747-400s on flights from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.
A spokesperson for British Airways told CNN Business that it "had to make a handful of cancellations" because a decision by telecom operators to delay activating the new 5G service at some locations didn't cover all the airports the airline serves.
Will 5G Mobile Networks in the US Really Interfere with Aircraft Altimeters?
Will 5G Mobile Networks in the US Really Interfere With Aircraft?
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has raised concerns that 5G telephone networks will interfere with radio altimeters fitted to some aircraft. These are crucial for making landings in poor visibility and for helicopters flying at low altitude. Nonetheless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorised the roll-out of these networks, including the placement of phone masts near airports.
The radio spectrum is a public resource, and it is both congested and hotly contested in the US. Nothing goes to waste and industries lobby hard to secure their portion. Unfortunately, the part of the spectrum set aside for vital aircraft operations sits very close to that assigned for 5G in the US and raises the chance of interference.
There is no single part of the electromagnetic spectrum that 5G occupies. Some countries are using 600 megahertz to 900 megahertz, which isn’t dissimilar to 4G. Some are placing it between 2.3 gigahertz and 4.7 gigahertz, which boosts data speed somewhat. And others are using 24 gigahertz to 47 gigahertz, which requires more towers but offers even higher data speeds. In many cases a network will use a mix of these. In the US, the frequencies allocated for 5G are closer to those used by aircraft than those allocated by the EU.
Radio altimeters operate in the 4.2 gigahertz to 4.4 gigahertz band, and the US has set aside a portion of the spectrum right up to the lower band of that for 5G. In Europe, the comparable band ends at 4 gigahertz.
[...] Time will tell how the matter is resolved, but, in truth, both the telecoms industry and the airline industry are too profitable for a solution not to be found quickly. It is likely that existing altimeters will be rated as safe eventually, or new ones will be designed that are more robust against 5G interference.
What is your take on this?
Original Submission #1 Original Submission #2 Original Submission #3
(Score: 1, Disagree) by Snotnose on Thursday January 20 2022, @07:54AM (17 children)
If this is the first the guy is hearing about potential problems with 5G then he has no business running an airline.
Relationship status: Available for curbside pickup.
(Score: 5, Interesting) by bradley13 on Thursday January 20 2022, @08:08AM (14 children)
The problems are US-specific, and related to (a) the frequency band allocated by the US, (b) recent changes in cell-tower configuration, and (c) recent changes in cell-tower broadcast power. The rest of the world doesn't have a problem. The US does. More, the problem only affects certain aircraft, notably the Boeing 777, of which different airlines will have different numbers in service.
Strangely, the US is not the center of the world for non-US airlines. So it is not entirely surprising that this information has just percolated up to the guy.
Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
(Score: 3, Interesting) by mhajicek on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:10AM (6 children)
Has anyone tested if there's actually a problem, or is this all pontification?
The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
(Score: 5, Informative) by PiMuNu on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:15AM (3 children)
> Has anyone tested if there's actually a problem
There are some modelling assumptions in their analysis, which I have not checked or studied (I am not an RF expert).
(Score: 2) by drussell on Thursday January 20 2022, @02:54PM
Ah, good... Came here to post that link, but you beat me to it. :)
(Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21 2022, @12:56AM (1 child)
Modelling the effects of 5g is like holding in a shit in a rainstorm.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21 2022, @09:10AM
(Score: 5, Informative) by janrinok on Thursday January 20 2022, @10:38AM
As I understand it, the US could have spent some money by asking non-US aircraft to take part in a trial - but they didn't want to do that. So non-US airlines cancelling flights is probably the best way to focus US minds to find out the true extent of the problem, and to tell everyone why has it left it so late to decide that they cannot assure foreign operators (even flying US manufactured aircraft!) of aircraft safety? This is purely a US problem - they sold the frequency bands and even extended them more that was perhaps wise in order to make lots of money. The 5G manufactures have designed and built their equipment to use the frequency bands that they paid for. Try telling the rest of the world that they have to pay now to modify their aircraft which work perfectly well everywhere else but in the US.
(Score: 2) by mcgrew on Thursday January 20 2022, @05:29PM
Instead of asking soylents, why didn't you google it and make an informative comment like the guy who answered your question did? Doesn't your computer have a Google? Hell, even a Bing might have worked.
Carbon, The only element in the known universe to ever gain sentience
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20 2022, @02:31PM
(Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday January 20 2022, @03:29PM (5 children)
The other 96 % of the world's population agrees that the US is not the center of the world.
the following for idiot ACs who would post 
The thing about landline phones is that they never get lost. No air tag necessary.
(Score: 2) by Dr Spin on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:27PM
The other 96 % of the world's population agrees that the US is not the center of the world.
Based on the information provided in the story and its comments, some of us are not even sure the USA is on the same planet!
Warning: Opening your mouth may invalidate your brain!
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:40PM
You need to check your math curricula again. Children in the U.S. learn division in 3rd grade now.
(Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20 2022, @10:09PM
I fail to see how tribbles would be associated with division. They seem to be more associated with the mathematical operation of multiplication.
(Score: 2) by driverless on Saturday January 22 2022, @10:06AM (1 child)
Does the US know that?
(Score: 2) by drussell on Sunday January 23 2022, @07:46AM
(Score: 4, Insightful) by zocalo on Thursday January 20 2022, @01:29PM
It's essentially a US problem, and the FAA has been getting quite a bit of flack over their poor communications in general and justifications of why this is an actual issue and not just a potential concern. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they haven't taken the time to inform every foreign international airline in the world about all the details, even one as large as Emirates, given they seemingly haven't even provided that information to the US telcos. I think it fairly safe to say that Emirates were aware that there was an issue though because I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have taken the drastic step of changing flight schedules on the spur of the moment, no matter how abundant their caution.
UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
(Score: 2) by Lester on Sunday January 23 2022, @06:23PM
This coment has a link to a report written in October 2020, that has a short history of the case that started in March 2020
(Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Thursday January 20 2022, @10:42AM
So now they're not "seeking delays" they're just loading the carriers with bad press.
Fuck the FAA. They've fucked up so much recently -- right down to the shit with the 787 Max where they didn't do their jobs. This article even mentions that individual airlines were involved, and now here's an individual airline exec that doesn't ever watch the news? Doubtful.
(Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20 2022, @03:07PM (7 children)
The Compliance standards for the altimeters are quite loose. The middle of their band is 4.3Ghz. Their spec requires them to reject things outside 3.78–4.84 GHz.
(See https://www.rtca.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Slides-5G-Interference-Risk-to-Radar-Altimeters.pdf [rtca.org] Slide 9)
It is hard to argue that is is an issue of what is technically hard. Proportionally, if they were operating at 98Mhz, they would expect quiet from 88.2 to 110.3. Note that these numbers cover the whole FM broadcast band. And yet we all know that multiple stations of greatly varying signal strength are able to happily cooexist on the FM band. It is reasonable (and cheap) to build robust filters to operate in this new environment. You just have to choose to do it.
Note that this back of the envelope calculation uses data known since at least 2018. This specification has allowed spectrum dependence way outside the allocated band for a long time. The more complete RTCA study confirms this. In Nov 2021, the FAA asked the equipment owners and makers to actually look and see it was a problem in the actual equipment as well. And of then there has been the recent drama...
(see https://nbaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/AIR-21-18.pdf) [nbaa.org]
It could be said that the aviation community has had literally years to fix a spectrum squatting problem and yet instead of acting, they continue to study and ask for another 2 weeks.
The good news is that the problem does not appear to be all that bad. A reasonably good filter in the antenna line might be able to retrofit existing equipment. (Basically an aluminum block about the size of a small brick with a couple of dozen carefully machined cavities.)
Testing might be nice. One could ask for more 5G towers near busy airports but give ATC a kill switch for bad weather. That should both allow safe operation for now and gather information on how 5G affects what is actually flying before and after a retrofit. Experience gained on airlines can be used of choose a path for smaller planes and heliocopters.
(Score: 3, Informative) by choose another one on Thursday January 20 2022, @06:41PM (5 children)
Which is why rest-of-the-world kept 5g away from that range . There are an awful lot of altimeters flying around, on a lot of different aircraft, designing, certifying, and implementing a fix for every single one will be a huge cost, some may not be fixable at all - there will probably end up being a list of aircraft types effectively banned from landing in the US. Rest-of-the-world won't be a problem, indeed 5G is already rolled out in many places without issue.
Literally years? Do you realise on what timescale aviation works?
5G has only been a thing for five years or so (5G-NR draft spec was end 2017), commercial aircraft have a 30 year typical service life with decades long design time and production run. The 737 is still being built based on 1960s design much of which is still certified to the 1960s applicable standards and will be probably for at least the next decade - that's 1960s design, 2030s still in production, 2050s still in service.
I guess you think the weather forecasting folk (who've also been complaining, a lot, and more about the US, where again the FCC have campaigned for more interference) have also had "literally years" to fix their issues with 5G ? I mean, it's been five years, how long does it take to replace all you weather satellites ffs - we've all replaced out mobile phones twice in that timescale...
(Score: 2) by ChrisMaple on Friday January 21 2022, @12:50AM (4 children)
The RF portion of the altimeter function should be something that can just be replaced with an improved design. It's electronics, not something that's an integral part of the airframe.
(Score: 2) by choose another one on Friday January 21 2022, @01:52PM (2 children)
"It's electronics" that is an essential integral part of the airframe safety. Radalts are DAL-A on commercial aircraft I believe, that is the highest safety critical design assurance level.
Now, DAL-anything (let alone A) is a royal PITA if you "just" want to get stuff done, but that's the point: you don't "just replace" _anything_ on an aircraft with "an improved design", there are certification processes and rules that _must_ be followed, those rules have been developed over many decades and a lot of tombstones / smoking holes in the ground. The result is that aviation technology moves much more slowly but aircraft move much more safely. It's also a bit boring working with stuff that is so-last-decade on a design that won't even fly for almost another decade, which is partly why I got out of it early on in my career.
The certification / standardisation process hasn't even produced a standard to design to yet - the MOPS update process started 2019 (only a year or so after the _draft_ 5G spec came out) it is expected to complete late 2022, after that the FAA / EASA etc. need to produce their own certification standards based on the MOPS, then you can start the process of designing to DAL-A your new rad-alt to meet the new standards. Then you need to certify separately for each and every different aircraft type (which basically is too expensive and won't happen, older types or types where there are few examples flying just will not get a certified retrofit).
NO one, but no one, is going to design a new rad-alt _now_ before the new standards it will have to comply with in a couple of years are even drafted, it would be commercially insane.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21 2022, @03:31PM (1 child)
We gave up that kind of safety engineering in the medical field, once a problem became politically pressing. Perhaps they'll do the same for aviation.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21 2022, @11:27PM
They skipped it on the 737-MAX too (perhaps an early prototype of the "new process"?) and that didn't go so well..
(Score: 2) by drussell on Sunday January 23 2022, @07:50AM
You've obviously never been involved with designing anything for the aerospace industry!!
-1, Clueless... 🤦
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21 2022, @03:28PM
There is an ITU spec describing the system.
The rx front filter described is, in their words "modest".
It would have been interesting to hear the negotiation in the standards committie when they choose that word.
For a safety of life application, it seems spec speak for inadequate of almost non-existent.
Basically the opposite of the usual belt and suspenders robust plan one would expect for an aviation safety.
It would be interesting to see the test data the FAA used to allow flight to continue.
More than likely, what is actually flying is much better than this.
The numbers are here:
Table 1 on page 13 -30dBm rx frontend overload level
Table 4 on page 19 24dB/octave rx frontend filter dropping only to -40dB
Section 2.1 describes the front-end with "modest selectivity (gradual RF-filter roll-off)"