5G technology: Airlines suspend some US flights over deployment issue
Emirates said it would suspend flights into nine US airports: Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. It said it would continue flying into New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, the Los Angeles airport and Washington Dulles.
Air India said it would suspend service between Delhi Airport and San Francisco, Chicago and JFK. It will also suspend a Mumbai to Newark flight.
Both ANA and Japan Airlines said they canceled some flights to the US scheduled to use Boeing 777 aircraft, but will operate some flights using Boeing 787s instead.
Transportation regulators had already been concerned that the version of 5G that’s was scheduled to be switched on in January could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears — despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.
Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports — not air travelers’ mobile devices — could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment. (Radar altimeters differ from standard altimeters, which rely on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to gauge altitude.)
“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” Megan Ketterer, a spokesperson for AT&T, said.
In a Tuesday letter, CEOs from 10 airlines told the Biden administration to push back the already-delayed rollout. Airlines estimate 1,000 flight disruptions per day because of possible interference with radar altimeters that pilots use to land in low visibility conditions. The telecom industry has not commented on the letter, but has said fears are unfounded since there have not been problems in other countries where 5G is already deployed.