Airline companies are bracing for the restrictions of 5G in their operations. The FAA has made it clear that they will not let a single airline or air traffic control agency be able to monopolize airspace, and is initiating an all-out effort to shut down any company which tries.
The “airline news” is a major story that has been circulating in the media. The airlines are bracing for flight restrictions in 5G Standoff.
According to industry sources, airlines have started preparing for anticipated flight interruptions as a result of a new fifth-generation cellular service set to launch early next year.
Airlines are taking the first measures in response to a Federal Aviation Administration regulation issued earlier this month. The guideline indicated the possibility of landing limitations in inclement weather in up to 46 of the country’s main metro regions, where the new wireless service is set to launch on January 5.
The preparation comes as US authorities review two proposals––one from the telecommunications sector and the other from the aviation industry––to shield planes from possible 5G interference with cockpit safety equipment. They are common in contemporary air travel and assist aircraft in landing in bad weather, preventing accidents, and avoiding mid-flight collisions.
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The wireless industry claims that the proposed service presents no danger to aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration is concerned that the frequencies used by cellular communications may interfere with cockpit equipment.
The airlines are embroiled in a legal battle. “You can’t utilize that equipment if there’s any sort of weather, if there’s heavy winds, if visibility isn’t good due to pollution,” United Airlines Holdings Inc. UAL 1.82 percent Chief Executive Scott Kirby told reporters on Dec. 15. “You can’t arrive at airports—in Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, Detroit—consider what that entails. This cannot be the end result.”
Airlines are waiting for details from the FAA on how extensive or targeted the landing limitations will be—and where they will be—starting Jan. 5, according to industry executives. The FAA is anticipated to send pilot advisories indicating which airports would be subject to limitations about a week before that date, according to sources familiar with the situation.
According to persons familiar with the situation, air-safety officials have been reviewing cell-tower and airplane data to identify where 5G signals may possibly interfere with planes.
Despite the unknowns, airlines are examining the impact of canceled or diverted flights on fuel, aircraft, and crew requirements, according to George Paul, vice president of technical services at the National Air Carrier Association, which represents smaller cargo and passenger airlines.
“It’s like a horrible storm,” Mr. Paul said, “you don’t know where it’s going to strike until it gets a little closer.”
Airlines’ early preparation is the consequence of a long-running spat between telecom and aviation authorities in the United States, which has lasted more than a year.
About a year ago, the Federal Communications Commission auctioned off sections of the 5G-friendly C-band airwaves. Top auction winners AT&T Inc. T 0.30 percent and Verizon Communications Inc. VZ 0.80 percent were given permission to begin delivering part of the speedier cellular service as early as this month, but the firms postponed its rollout until January 5 to satisfy the FAA’s outstanding concerns. The businesses also agreed to reduce the strength of C-band broadcasts for another six months, particularly near airport runways.
Flight restrictions may make it more difficult for the airline industry in the United States to recover from the Covid-19 epidemic. Domestic travel has recovered, and airlines are anticipating a jump in international flight demand in summer 2022. Mr. Kirby, speaking at a Senate hearing on Dec. 15, called possible 5G restrictions the “biggest and most damaging potential issue facing us.” While some carriers may need to cut travel plans due to Boeing Co. BA 0.96 percent’s delays in delivering its 787 Dreamliner, Mr. Kirby called possible 5G restrictions the “biggest and most damaging potential issue facing us.”
Officials from the United States’ telecom sector have questioned accusations about the new technology’s safety dangers. “The aviation industry’s scaremongering is based on entirely debunked facts and intentional factual distortions,” said Nick Ludlum, a spokesperson for the wireless industry association CTIA. “In January, we will deploy this service with the world’s most comprehensive set of security safeguards.”
The breadth of potential flight limitations in the United States is likely to be primarily determined by 5G buffer zones surrounding airports.
Mario Tama/Getty Images/Mario Tama/Getty Images/Mario Tama/Getty Images
Competing plans from the US aviation and telecom sectors to prohibit new 5G transmissions near airports have regulators at odds. Officials reviewed both sectors’ ideas to construct buffer zones around airports in a high-level meeting Wednesday that included Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, according to sources familiar with the situation.
According to several of these sources, Mr. Buttigieg suggested that the FCC evaluate the aviation industry’s proposal. According to another individual involved with the conversation, FCC officials regarded that plan as a nonstarter that would effectively rule out 5G.
Ms. Rosenworcel of the FCC expressed confidence that authorities will find a way to deploy 5G quickly and safely. At a news conference on Dec. 14, she remarked, “I have trust in the mitigations that have been brought up by the cellular sector.”
According to an FAA official, the agency is still working with other government agencies and cellular businesses to ensure that “5G C-band and aviation can safely coexist.”
“‘It’s like a severe hurricane—you have no idea where it’ll strike until it gets a bit closer.’”
— George Paul, National Air Carrier Association vice president of technical services
Airlines are also seeking advice from aeronautical manufacturers.
Boeing, which makes its own safety recommendations on occasion, is assessing possible dangers not addressed by the FAA, according to individuals familiar with the situation.
According to one of these persons, Boeing engineers have been looking at concerns including takeoff and pilot reactions to probable 5G interference.
Airbus SE, a European jet manufacturer, said it was working with authorities and the FAA to give airline guidelines. According to a source close to the FAA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, which is the FAA’s counterpart, does not view the 5G issue with the same level of concern as American regulators, but is aware of unconfirmed reports of 5G interference and is fielding inquiries from concerned airlines.
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The breadth of potential flight limitations in the United States is likely to be primarily determined by 5G buffer zones surrounding airports. Reduced 5G signal intensities and antennas directed in particular directions are among the recommended safeguards to minimize possible interference with flights’ radar altimeters, which estimate the distance between aircraft and the ground.
According to persons familiar with the situation, a preliminary FAA investigation showed that the aviation industry’s approach would likely prevent substantial interruptions of U.S. air travel. According to these sources, the agency’s preliminary review of the telecom industry’s plan indicates that it might result in widespread cancellations and diversions in poor weather.
According to a senior White House official engaged in settling the disagreement, the FAA may rule that particular radar altimeters aren’t at danger of interference, exempting planes equipped with them from any flying restrictions.
Larger airport buffer zones would restrict mobile carriers from reaching as many consumers in some of the highly populated cities they service, despite spending $81 billion on C-band licenses.
“The safety problems with airplanes and aviation are very real, and I also know that there’s a solution here,” John Laughter, Delta Air Lines Inc.’s DAL 2.12 percent operations head, said during a recent Senate hearing.
—This essay was co-written by Alison Sider and Benjamin Katz.
Andrew Tangel and Drew FitzGerald may be reached at An[email protected] and [email protected], respectively.
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