The 5G aviation crisis has mostly been averted. Here’s What Happened – and What We Still Don’t Know

The warning about mass flight cancellations comes as AT&T, Verizon and the airline industry have reached an agreement to delay the rollout of 5G around major airports. And on Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration removed a larger number of commercial airlines flying in situations where the pilot thinks the possibility of 5G interference is the most dangerous. Today, nearly 80% of the entire U.S. commercial aircraft fleet has that license.

But we are still not clear.

The agreement to delay the rollout of 5G around airports is only a temporary solution, and it is not clear if all negotiators have given the specific deadline they are aiming for. A significant number of planes have yet to land in those most dangerous situations. Airlines in the region have voiced that they have not been discussed and are still facing long-term and short-term impacts. And, to the public’s knowledge, a permanent solution to the problem remains unresolved.

Here’s everything we do – and don’t – know about the situation.

What’s the deal with the FAA to ‘clean up’ some planes but not others?

Radar altimeters are devices that use radio waves to measure an aircraft’s distance from the ground, and they are essential for commercial aircraft landing in bad weather. The root of the ongoing problem is the fact that the 5G frequencies that Verizon and AT&T have just rolled out, called C-bands, are very close to those used by radar altimeters, which raises concerns. worry about interference.

FAA approves more airlines - including some smaller, regional jets - to fly near 5G towers
Over the past two weeks, radar altimeter manufacturers have been scrambling to “evaluate data from wireless companies to determine how robust each model” the radar altimeter is and whether it is still available. works even when flying near an active 5G antenna, according to FAA.

In a statement on Thursday, the FAA said it had issued more approvals allowing 78 percent of the US commercial fleet to make landings at low-visibility airports near where wireless companies are located. 5G deployment. Essentially, regulators say they now think it’s safe for planes to use one of the 13 types of radar altimeters.

Approved models include:

  • All Boeing 717, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, 787, MD-10/-11 jets
  • All Airbus A300, A310, A319, A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 aircraft models
  • Several Embraer 170 and 190 . regional jets

But of course, more than 20% of the U.S. commercial aircraft fleet has not been approved. And the FAA warns that it predicts that “some altimeters will be too susceptible to 5G interference.”

“For safety purposes, aircraft with such altimeters will be prohibited from performing low visibility landings where 5G is deployed because the altimeter may provide inaccurate information,” the agency said. corpse.

The agency also warned that buffers that are reducing 5G signal strength around certain airports are essential to maintaining safe operations.

A 5G cell tower is an image of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the Lennox neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on January 19.

However, it is not clear why the FAA and the manufacturers of the altimeters could not have made these assessments sooner.

Above it websiteThe FAA states that over the past two weeks it has “received critical 5G data” that help make these decisions and “facilitate data sharing” between altimeter manufacturers and companies. wireless.

What is the agreement with service providers in the area?

Faye Malarkey Black, president of the Regional Aviation Association that represents airlines connecting larger hubs with dozens of smaller cities around the country is still in limbo.

Regional flights carry brands such as American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express, and they are contracted with companies or subsidiaries such as Envoy, ExpressJet, Republic Airways and SkyWest Airlines.

And for them – “the crisis is not yet averted,” Black alert.
An aircraft of Delta Air Lines Inc.  was prepared to take off at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in Morrisville, North Carolina, USA, on Thursday, January 20.

Jet bombers, frequently flown by carriers in the area, were not given the green light for their altimeters. And Black said rural airports will still “suffer a major impact on [their] operate in inclement weather. “

“We will never compromise on safety,” Black wrote on Twitter. “Flights will be landing. Short term = highly disruptive. Long term = small [communities] there will be fewer choices and fewer services. “

How did we get here and who is responsible?

We’re not sure. For years, the airline industry knew that 5G was coming. Part of the problem may be the ongoing power struggle between the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission, the United States’ arbiter of all things radio spectrum and sold off the spectrum in question to wireless companies for a whopping $80 billion last year.
FAA and FCC have be aware that airlines believe a travel disaster could be imminent if 5G is deployed without addressing the altimeter concerns. Most wireless service providers have let go of those worriesHowever, and it was not until international airlines began canceling flights ahead of the 5G rollout on Wednesday that people started to announce significant strides in finding a solution.

And that’s how we got to where we are now, with temporary buffers preventing 5G from being deployed near certain airports – we don’t know exactly which – and a huge scramble to hash out. exactly how impactful this new mobile service altimeter is.

What is C-band 5G?  Verizon and AT &  T is revealing in the US
As far as who is to blame, Verizon and AT&T – which owns CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia – have largely blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for the incident. commands on Tuesday.

But the FAA has been adamant that the airline industry’s concerns are real – and with the industry already reeling from the global pandemic – airlines are desperately trying to avoid giving people one more reason to don’t take the plane.

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark has declined to say a word about what he sees as the problem, blaming the entire structure of the US system, saying “this is one of the most delinquent situations, completely irresponsible” that he has seen in his aviation career.

He added that “risks and dangers” should have been assessed.

How do we fix all of this?

It is not clear. Discussions between wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon, as well as the airline industry and federal regulators, are still ongoing.

We’re not sure if or when they will publicly announce a firm path forward, but decisions will have to be made, especially considering the 5G “buffer zones” around the hubs. Major airlines are still only temporary.

Tom Wheeler, who served as chairman of the FCC from 2013 to 2017, wrote a number of proposals in a November work for the Brookings Institutionhe said concerns about spectral interference could be addressed by manually adjusting the altimeters.
Major airlines say 5G apocalypse is over

Problem? That could cost billions of dollars – billions of dollars that no company wants to put out of their pocket.

“There are only three such sources of funds for the aviation industry. The government could pay out of the nearly $82 billion generated from the sale of user licenses. [5G spectrum at issue]; That would likely require Congress to act, “Wheeler wrote. The wireless industry could pay an additional tariff on the billions of dollars already spent on spectrum the government says will be ready for use on December 5. The airline industry, known for its Sometime of the new 5G allocation, it might pay to fix the offending altimeters. “

Wheeler, for his part, also blamed this failure on a lack of leadership and a lack of universal national policy.

What’s next?

We are still awaiting updates on the negotiations from the FAA, FCC and all other stakeholders. It’s unclear if there’s a firm deadline they’re aiming for, nor is it clear how long the “temporary” 5G buffers will last.


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