FAA clears 45 per cent of commercial plane fleet after 5G deployment
Image credit: DT
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared only 45 per cent of the country's commercial aircraft to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed from this Wednesday.
Last week, the FAA disclosed a list of 50 US airports that will have buffer zones when wireless carriers turn on the new 5G services on January 19 2022, having previously warned that potential interference could affect sensitive aircraft instruments such as altimeters - which provide pilots with an accurate reading of the plane's proximity to the ground, helping to minimise the risk of accidents or collisions - and thus having significant impact on flights in low-visibility atmospheric conditions.
The FAA has now approved two radio altimeter models used in many Boeing and Airbus planes, including some Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. However, the Boeing 787 has not yet received FAA approval. The agency said it expects to issue more approvals in the coming days.
Boeing 787 operators, it said, would need to take “additional precautions” when landing on wet or snowy runways at affected airports and that anomalies on all three 787 variants – which could affect the flight director, autothrottle, thrust-reversers, configuration warning system, or collision-avoidance systems – “may not be evident” until the aircraft is at low altitude on approach.
“The presence of [5G] interference can result in degraded deceleration performance, increased landing distance and runway excursion,” the FAA warned. The FAA said it is working to understand how radar-altimeter data is used by other flight-control systems in aircraft.
The agency said that its first wave of specific aircraft model and altimeter approvals open "runways at as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-band interference." However, it acknowledged the discrepancy with a warning that "even with these new approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected."
The FAA told Boeing in a letter on Sunday, reviewed by Reuters, that it was granting approvals for specific runways and planes with certain altimeters "because the susceptibility to interference from 5G C-band emissions has been minimised."
For their part, passenger and cargo airlines have raised the 5G issue with senior government officials, saying that the situation is far from resolved and could severely impact flights and the supply chain.
"Even with the approvals granted 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 prior to the planned January 19 rollout," said Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Fedex and other carriers.
AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80bn auction last year, agreed on 3 January to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to reduce potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks, while the FAA reviewed new data detailing the location and power of wireless transmitters in all 46 US markets where the 5G service will be deployed, averting an aviation safety standoff. The FAA on Thursday issued nearly 1,500 notices detailing the extent of potential impact of 5G services.
"Passengers should check with their airlines if weather is forecast at a destination where 5G interference is possible," the FAA said on Sunday.
On 7 January, the FAA disclosed the 50 US airports that will have 5G buffer zones, including in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami. The airlines themselves have warned that the buffer zones may not be enough to prevent flight disruptions at those airports.
Late last week, Airports Council International North America urged a delay in the 5G implementation in order to avoid widespread disruption across the air transportation system.
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