Bizav Cautious, Rotor Critical on 5G Delay

 - January 4, 2022, 12:57 PM

Business aviation and the rotorcraft community reacted positively this morning to the two-week delay of deployment of 5G C-band wireless from AT&T and Verizon, but some remained critical of solutions currently being negotiated that only address the threat it poses to aircraft radio altimeters near the nation’s busiest airports. 

The Helicopter Association International (HAI) noted, “The effects of 5G deployment are not limited to the nation’s busiest airports, and mitigations by wireless carriers should not be limited to those locations either.” HAI pointed out that “the voluntary measures proposed by the wireless carriers would provide modest 5G limitations at the surface of public-use heliports, of which there are only 55 in the country. That number is dwarfed by the estimated 6,533 to 8,533 HAA landing sites in the United States, with more than 4,000 being private-use heliports colocated at hospitals.”

National Business Aviation Association president Ed Bolen said, “NBAA welcomes this short-term reprieve from the Verizon and AT&T 5G rollout, so that we can better understand and communicate its potential impact on aircraft, airports and airspace across the system. We need answers to key questions in order to ensure we remain the world’s largest, safest, and most efficient aviation system, and we will utilize this time to gather and share much-needed information about this development for all aviation segments, including business aviation.”

HAI emphasized, “All over the country, from densely populated cities to oil rigs 200 miles offshore, helicopters are used to save lives, serve and protect American citizens, and support critical industries in demanding environments—and many of those missions are conducted from start to finish without the use of airports.”

The rotorcraft lobby noted that the impact of 5G C-band radio altimeter interference could be particularly harmful to helicopter air ambulance operations (HAA) and bring with it loss of life. “The loss of a single life because of misguided 5G-related policies would be reprehensible.” 

HAI said that HAA operators transport roughly 1,000 injured or critically ill patients every day. “Up to 50,000 of the more than 300,000 people transported by HAA operators during 2021 were transported from off-airport/unimproved areas at night—meaning the mitigations proposed to maintain an equivalent level of safety at airports will have no effect on those operations.”