Doha: Airlines could see “massive disruption” in 2023 due to the rollout of 5G networks in the US as industry stakeholders struggle to come to a consensus.
US regulators require airlines to replace or upgrade their existing radio altimeters – which are approved by both the FAA and the US Federal Communications Commission – by July 2023.
“We find ourselves in a situation where we’re mandated to implement radio filters and new radio altimeters altogether on all aircraft operating into the US,” said Nick Careen, senior vice president of IATA’s operations, safety and security division.
“The FAA is claiming that there’s consensus on this note on this date, but there isn’t – the manufacturers won’t commit to this date and the airlines do not have a clear directive yet,” said Careen, during IATA’s AGM in Doha.
Earlier in January, major international airlines cancelled US-bound flights a day before the rollout of 5G networks.
“We must not repeat the recent experience in the United States,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General. “Many countries have successfully managed to facilitate the requirements of 5G service providers, while including necessary mitigations to preserve aviation safety and uninterrupted services.”
Before deciding on any spectrum allocations or conducting spectrum auctions, IATA called for governments to ensure close coordination and mutual understandings between national spectrum and aviation safety regulators so that each frequency allocation is comprehensively studied and is proven not to adversely impact aviation safety and efficiency.
“We need better coordination and we also believe we shouldn’t bear the costs of this – it’s 5G today, 6G tomorrow,” said Careen.
IATA has called for a complete overhaul in the way aviation industry workers are recruited and trained as the industry faces severe staff shortages after the pandemic. Airlines are also having a tough time attracting workers to on-site jobs that involve long hours and changing shifts.
“We are competing with many industries and lots of people are selecting jobs that are less onerous,” said Careen.
Even after making a hire, airlines and airports have to typically wait around three months for security clearances. Such clearances are required for access to certain establishments or public figures where there is a specific threat from terrorism.
“In some cases, the UK has taken six months for someone to get a security clearance badge, which is clearly unsustainable,” said Careen.
Careen said standardising certain processes across the industry will allow the workforce to be more ‘transient’. While a pilot can fly an aircraft in any country, the same cannot be said for ground operators, he added.