AI resumes US flights after clearance over 5G roll-out
Air India on Thursday resumed its flights on the Boeing B777 aircraft to the United States following approval from the manufacturer that the jet was safe to fly despite the expansion of 5G mobile communication services in American cities.
The development came two days after the national carrier announced cancellation of some of its most popular direct flights amid concerns that the new 5G services could potentially interfere with aircraft navigation systems.
“The matter regarding B777 flying into the US has been sorted and Boeing has allowed Air India to operate to the US on B777,” an Air India spokesperson said.
Accordingly, the airline’s first flight to New York’s F Kennedy International Airport took off on Thursday morning. “Other flights leaving in the day are to Chicago and San Francisco,” the spokesperson added.
The airline also said that it was making arrangements to carry the stranded passengers.
The Air India flights that resumed their operations from Thursday are Delhi-New York, New York-Delhi, Delhi-Chicago, Chicago-Delhi, Delhi- San Francisco and San Francisco-Delhi.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US’ aviation regulator, had on January 14 said that “5G interference with the aircraft’s radio altimeter could prevent engine and braking systems from transitioning to landing mode, which could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway”.
Since last week, FAA began issuing restrictions that airlines and other aircraft operators will face at many airports with the launch of new 5G wireless service.
“Aircraft with untested altimeters or that need retrofitting or replacement will be unable to perform low-visibility landings where 5G is deployed,” the agency had said in a statement.
Radio altimeters are critical for low-visibility landing, such as during spells of fog or heavy rain. They minimise the risk of accidents or collisions by accurate readings of the proximity to the ground.
The issue is unlikely to be a problem in Europe and Japan, where there have been enough changes in 5G deployment to ensure there is no interference, or in India , where the frequency band is different.
However, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in India on Wednesday said the issue is challenging for all stakeholders, and Boeing and Airbus last month warned that US operators alone could face revenue losses of up to $2 billion.
On Wednesday, the US agency issued new approvals for altimeters to allow an estimated 62% of the US commercial fleet to perform low visibility landings at airports, where wireless companies have deployed 5G C-band.