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The US FAA handles 45% of commercial aircraft fleet after 5G deployed

Plane sits on the tarmac at Columbia Metro Airport in West Columbia, South Carolina, USA, January 8, 2022. REUTERS / Sam Wolfe

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (Reuters) – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Sunday that it had cleared an estimated 45% of the US commercial aircraft fleet to make poor visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-bands will be deployed as of Wednesday .

The FAA has warned that potential disruption could affect sensitive aircraft instruments such as altimeters and have an impact on low-visibility operations.

US passenger and freight companies have sounded the alarm to senior government officials that the problem is far from solved and could have a serious impact on flights and the supply chain.

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“Even with the approvals given by the FAA today, US airlines will not be able to operate the vast majority of passenger and cargo flights due to the FAA’s 5G-related flight restrictions unless action is taken before the scheduled rollout on January 19.” said Airlines for America, a trading group representing American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), Fedex (FDX.N) and other airlines.

The FAA approved two radio altimeter models used in many Boeing and Airbus aircraft, including some Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10 / -11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. The announcement came just days before AT&T (TN) and Verizon (VZ.N) launched a new 5G service on Wednesday. The FAA said it expects to grant more approvals in the coming days.

The FAA said the flight and altimeter approval opens “runways at as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-band interference.” But the agency warned that “even with these new approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected.”

Reuters reviewed the 36-page list of runways covered by the unpublished approvals – and it does not include many major US airports.

The FAA told Boeing in a letter Sunday reviewed by Reuters that they provide approvals for specific runways and aircraft with certain altimeters “because susceptibility to interference from 5G C-band emissions is minimized.”

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly the entire C-Band spectrum in an $ 80 billion auction last year, agreed on January 3 to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce the risk of disruption and take other steps to reduce potential interference in six months. They also agreed to postpone the deployment for two weeks, and to prevent a halt in aviation security.

On Thursday, the FAA issued nearly 1,500 reports describing the extent of the potential impact of 5G services.

“Passengers should check with their airlines for weather forecast at a destination where 5G interference is possible,” the FAA said Sunday.

On January 7, the FAA unveiled the 50 U.S. airports that will have 5G buffer zones, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami.

However, the airlines are warning that the buffer zones may not be enough to prevent flight disruptions at these airports.

On Thursday, Airports Council International – North America called for a delay in 5G implementation to avoid widespread disruption to the US air transport system.

On Friday, the FAA said it would require Boeing 787 operators to take additional precautions when landing on any wet or snow-covered runways.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Edited by Nick Zieminski and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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