US FAA clears 45% of commercial aircraft fleet after 5G rollout


Airplanes sit on the tarmac at Columbia Metro Airport in West Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., January 8, 2022. REUTERS/Sam Wolfe

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WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Sunday it had cleared about 45% of the U.S. commercial jet fleet to make low visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be rolled out from Wednesday. .

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

US passenger and cargo airlines have sounded the alarm to senior government officials that the problem is far from resolved and could have serious repercussions for flights and the supply chain.

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“Even with the approvals granted by the FAA today, U.S. airlines will be unable to operate the vast majority of passenger and cargo flights due to the FAA’s 5G-related flight restrictions, at unless action is taken before the scheduled deployment on January 19.” said Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), Fedex (FDX.N) and other carriers.

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

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

Reuters has reviewed the 36-page list of runways covered by the approvals which has not yet been made public – and it does not include many major US airports.

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

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, agreed on January 3 to create buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce the risk of interference and take other steps to reduce potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay the deployment for two weeks, avoiding an aviation security stalemate.

The FAA on Thursday issued nearly 1,500 advisories detailing the extent of the potential impact of 5G services.

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

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

But airlines warn that these buffer zones may not be enough to prevent flight disruptions at these airports.

On Thursday, Airports Council International – North America urged delaying the implementation of 5G to avoid widespread disruption to the US air transportation system.

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

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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