Airline passengers who have endured tens of thousands of flight delays due to weather this week were relieved of their headaches on Saturday, despite concerns about possible disruptions from new wireless 5G systems being rolled out near major airports. A welcome respite.
One of the biggest concerns heading into Saturday is that 5G signals will interfere with aircraft equipment, especially devices called radio altimeters, which use radio waves to measure distances to the ground, which is important when planes land in poor visibility. I was wondering if it might be.
Predictions that the interference would lead to massive groundings of aircraft did not materialize last year as telecom companies began rolling out new services. It then agreed to limit signal output around congested airports and give airlines an extra year to upgrade their aircraft.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently told airlines that a small portion of the country’s aircraft could be disrupted because they were not modified to prevent radio interference.
But by mid-afternoon on Saturday, the worst concerns over 5G had not emerged, with Transport Department spokesperson Kelly Arndt saying air travel was at levels “close to normal.” But Arndt also stressed that the Federal Aviation Administration is “working closely with airlines to monitor summer pop-up storms, wildfire smoke and 5G issues.”
Most of the major U.S. airlines had made the necessary changes to adapt to 5G. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines all say their aircraft are equipped with radio altimeters that are protected from 5G interference.
The big exception is Delta Air Lines. Delta Air Lines said 190 of its aircraft, including most of its smaller planes, are not yet equipped with upgraded altimeters because suppliers cannot provide them fast enough.
Delta said in a statement provided to CBS News that “certain aircraft will be subject to further restrictions on operating in adverse weather conditions.” “Flight safety will never be an issue.”
The airline said only minimal delays are expected as a result.
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg explained that the potential for confusion has nothing to do with the personal cell phone on the flyer or whether the cell phone is in airplane mode.
“They don’t affect navigation,” Greenberg said. “But it is possible because the 5G tower is sending a signal not to the plane. may give.”
Wireless carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are using a portion of the radio spectrum called the C-band for new 5G services, which is close to the frequencies used by radio altimeters. The US Federal Communications Commission has licensed the C-band spectrum and denied the risk of interference, arguing there is a sufficient buffer between the C-band and the altimeter frequencies.
When the Federal Aviation Administration stood by the airlines and objected, the wireless companies delayed the rollout of the new service. In a compromise brokered by the Biden administration, wireless carriers agreed not to turn on 5G signals near about 50 busy airports. The postponement ended on Saturday.
The leader of the country’s largest pilots’ union said aircrews would be able to cope with the impact of 5G, but criticized the way radio licenses were granted, adding unnecessary risk to aviation.
AT&T declined to comment. Verizon did not immediately respond to questions about the plans.
Buttigieg reminded the head of the industry group Airlines for America in a letter last week about the deadline, warning that only aircraft with modified altimeters are allowed to land in low visibility. He said more than 80% of U.S. aircraft have been upgraded, but a significant number, including those operated by foreign airlines, have not.
“Airlines make mistakes on the edge of safety all the time, and if they have to change destinations, they will,” Greenberg said.
Delta Air Lines said Friday it will not be canceling any flights due to the issue. The company has carefully planned the routing of its 190 planes to limit the risk of diverting planes or canceling flights from airports with poor visibility due to fog or low clouds. Air-tracking website FlightAware listed nine canceled Delta flights on Saturday. None of them were related to 5G issues, the airline said.
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