For the second day in a row, Air India cancelled most of its flights on the India-US routes over safety concerns pertaining to the 5G communications rollout in the US and its possible hazardous effect on aircraft navigation systems. Six return flights—three of which were scheduled to depart India for the US Thursday—were cancelled, said an airline source. A day earlier, the airline had cancelled eight return flights.
A total of 734 passengers who had checked in for three flights scheduled for early Wednesday have been accommodated in hotels, the source said, adding Air India hopes to get a clearance to operate its Boeing 777 flights to the US to fly the stranded flyers.
Later in the day, US President Joe Biden said service providers have agreed to delay 5G deployment around key airports.
Among the Thursday cancellations were Air India flights from Delhi to Newark, Chicago and San Francisco. At the time of going to press, sources said that Air India was likely to operate the Delhi-New York-Delhi and Delhi-Washington-Delhi flights. A decision on the Mumbai-Newark flight was pending. “Washington airport doesn’t have 5G C-band transmission stations in the vicinity and so flights to this destination won’t be affected,” said an airline source.
The problem pertains to 5G services using frequencies in a radio spectrum called the C-band as these frequencies are close to those used by a radio altimeter installed on board aircraft. Since a radio altimeter is the only sensor onboard an aircraft that gives accurate information of an aircraft’s height over ground, any interference with its readings could be hazardous. Consequently, in December, the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued a directive that essentially banned all low-visibility landings once 5G was deployed. The 5G rollout was postponed from January 5 to allow the FAA time to work out a solution. (Source: Times of India)