Earlier this week, the heads of aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus warned against upcoming plans to deploy new 5G wireless networks, arguing that the technology could endanger the reliability of vital aircraft safety systems.
Both Dave Calhoun, Chief Executive of Boeing, and Jeffrey Knittel, the CEO of Airbus Americas, have urged the Biden administration to delay the rollout of 5G.
In a statement, Boeing said the aerospace industry was “focused on fully evaluating and addressing the potential for 5G interference with radio altimeters,” according to NPR.
“We are collaborating with aviation authorities, government leaders, airlines, and industry groups to ensure the continued operational safety of aircraft throughout the aviation system worldwide,” it said.
As reported by Reuters, Calhoun and Knittel asked U.S Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to support the postponement of AT&T and Verizon’s deployment of C-Band spectrum 5G wireless, currently scheduled for January 5, 2021.
“5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate,” the letter said, adding it could have “an enormous negative impact on the aviation industry.”
The concerns raised by both the aerospace industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) relate to potential interference of 5G with flight technology such as radio altimeters.
“[R]adio altimeters cannot be relied upon to perform their intended function if they experience interference from wireless broadband operations,” the FAA said, adding it would require “limitations prohibiting certain operations requiring radio altimeter data when in the presence of 5G C-Band interference.”
Airlines have also expressed concern. In a Senate hearing, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly informed Congress that the industry’s top concern in the short-term “is the deployment of 5G.”
“In November, Verizon and AT&T wrote to the Federal Communications Commission confirming their intention to start deploying 5G in January 2022,” reported The Guardian. “But they said they would take extra precautionary measures beyond what is required by US law until July 2022 while the FAA completed its investigation.”
On December 7, the FAA announced that potential radio altimeter interference would require the prohibition of pilots from relying on such technology when they approach specific airports.
“If bad weather means pilots can’t see a runway near those cell sites after AT&T and Verizon light up C-Band frequencies Jan. 5, expect them to land elsewhere. Or not take off at all,” explained USA Today.
“You’ll be forced to divert the flight to an airport that is not 5G-covered,” said Robert Mann, president of the aviation-industry consulting firm R.W. Mann. & Co. “Or you’ll have to not dispatch the plane.”
“If there’s any kind of weather, if there’s high winds, if the visibility isn’t good because of smog, you can’t use that equipment,” United Airlines Chief Executive Scott Kirby said. “You can’t land at airports — at Chicago O’Hare, at Atlanta, at Detroit — just think about what that means. This cannot be the outcome.”
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