5G could land planes, wreak havoc, warn top US airline CEOs

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 18, 2022
Updated 2022/01/18 at 5:20 AM

Chief executives of major US passenger and cargo carriers warned on Monday of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are expected to deploy a new 5G service.

Airlines have warned that the new 5G C-Band service, due to start on Wednesday, could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “could strand tens of thousands of Americans abroad” and cause “chaos” on US flights. .

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the travel and transportation audience will essentially be on the ground,” the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others wrote in a letter. reported for the first time. by Reuters.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential interference could affect the plane’s sensitive instruments, such as altimeters, and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.

“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subject to cancellations, detours or delays,” the letter warned.

As of Monday night, airlines were considering whether to start canceling some international flights scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.

“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is bracing for some service disruption. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with the government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” aircraft maker Boeing said on Monday.

The action is urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express. “To be blunt, the country’s trade is going to stop.”

The letter was sent to White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. Government agencies did not immediately comment.

‘It is necessary to intervene’

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-band spectrum in an $80 billion (approximately Rs. 5,95,040 crore) auction last year, on January 3 agreed to create buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce the risk of interference and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay the deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily avoiding an aviation security standoff, after previously delaying service by 30 days.

Verizon and AT&T declined to comment on Monday.

The CEOs of major airlines and Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun held a long call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the impending crisis, officials told Reuters.

The airlines are calling for “5G to be rolled out everywhere in the country except within the approximately 3.2 km of airport runways” at some major airports.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruptions to air passengers, carriers, the supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they said.

The airlines added that the flight restrictions will not be limited to bad weather operations.

“Many modern aircraft safety systems will be deemed unusable, causing a much bigger problem than we knew… Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are large areas of the operating fleet that may need to be grounded indefinitely.”

One area of ​​concern is whether some Boeing 777s will not be able to land at some key US airports after 5G service begins, as well as some Boeing cargo planes, airline officials told Reuters.

The airlines called for action to ensure that “5G is deployed, except when towers are very close to airport runways, until the FAA can determine how this can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruptions.”

The FAA said on Sunday that it has cleared about 45 percent of the U.S. commercial airliner fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where C-band 5G will be deployed and expects to issue more approvals before Wednesday. Airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many large airports.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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