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AIR METHODS’ COMMITMENT TO SAFETY IN LIGHT OF RECENT 5G NETWORK ACTIVATION DELAYS

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A study completed by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA, Inc.) and white paper published on October 7, 2020, revealed the susceptibility of aircraft radio altimeters to commercial 5G cellular transmissions. It was determined that the activation of the 3.7-3.98 GHz C-band, planned for December 5, 2021, may adversely affect the accuracy or functionality of traditional radar altimeters. 

As delays of the activation date of the 5G network continue, we have been working closely with Helicopter Association International (HAI), the Air Medical Operators Association (AMOA), the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS) and the Federal Aviation Administration to minimize the impact to our operations, and ultimately the access to higher levels of care for millions of Americans.

Our primary concerns are two-fold. The first and most important being the potential safety impact to aircraft operations, and the second being the regulatory impact. Our Safety Management System (SMS) provides us with the structure to methodically address both points and identify a clear path forward. An internal team of subject matter experts was assembled to assess the risk to operations and propose mitigations that would reduce that risk to an acceptable level.

Through process, training, and other available or installed equipment, we are prepared to demonstrate an equivalent level of safety to that provided by a radar altimeter. We have also applied for and have been issued, an exemption to regulations that would have prohibited helicopter operations in the presence of potential 5G interference.

As the largest air medical emergency transport service in the country operating under a unified FAA Part 135 Certificate, we always encourage safety improvements within the air medical community and today is no different. Since 2015, we have invested over $100 million toward safety practices, protocols, and research is unmatched in the air medical industry. At Air Methods, we will never stop working on ways to fly and transport patients and crews more safely because we believe everyone at Air Methods is responsible for ensuring the highest level of safety – before, during, and after the flight.

We would like to thank HAI, AMOA, AAMS and the FAA for their collaboration and support. Through our collective efforts, we have ensured Air Methods’ ability to safely continue operations, and have provided manufacturers time to fully assess and develop radar altimeters that are not susceptible to 5G interference.