The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared an estimated 45% of the country’s commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed, starting on Wednesday.
The FAA has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and make an impact on low-visibility operations.
US passenger and cargo airlines have been sounding the alarm to senior government officials that the issue 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 19 January rollout,” said Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Fedex and other carriers.
The FAA has approved two radio altimeter models used in many Boeing and Airbus planes.
The announcement came just days before AT&T and Verizon are expected to launch a new 5G service on Wednesday.
The FAA said it expects to issue more approvals in the coming days.
The FAA added that the aircraft and altimeter approvals open “runways at as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-band interference.”
However, the agency warned that even with these new approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected.
The FAA told Boeing in a letter 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 minimized.”
AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, agreed earlier this month 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, averting a potential aviation safety stand-off.
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.
Some airlines have warned those buffer zones may not be enough to prevent flight disruptions at those airports, while Airports Council International – North America has continued to urge a delay to 5G implementation to avoid widespread disruption across the US air transportation system.