Major US airlines warn that 5G expansion could cause “chaos” for US flights

The heads of large US passenger and freight companies warned on Monday of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are set to distribute a new 5G service.

The airlines warned that the new C-Band 5G service, which begins on Wednesday, could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “potentially stranding tens of thousands of Americans abroad” and causing “chaos” for US flights.

“Unless our major hubs have been freed up to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping audiences will be largely grounded,” the executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others wrote in a letter that first was reported by Reuters.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential disruption could affect sensitive aircraft instruments such as altimeters and significantly complicate short-term operations.

“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be suspended, diverted or delayed,” the letter warned.

“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transport industry is preparing for certain disruptions in service. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with the government to complete solutions that safely mitigate as many scheduling impacts as possible,” said aircraft manufacturer Boeing on Monday. .

Measures are urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air, JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express.

“To be fair, the nation’s trade will stop.”

The letter went to White House National Economic Council Chairman Brian Deese, Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. The FAA said they “will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe when wireless companies distribute 5G. The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and canceled flights.”

The other state authorities did not comment.

“Intervention needed” AT&T and Verizon, which won almost the entire C-band spectrum in an $ 80 billion auction last year, agreed on January 3 to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce disruption risks and take other measures to reduce potential disruption. for six months. They also agreed to postpone the deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, which would temporarily avert a flight safety stop, after previously delaying the service by 30 days.

Verizon and AT&T declined to comment on Monday. They claim that C-Band 5G has been successfully distributed in about 40 other countries without any problems with flight interference.

Major airline CEOs and Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun held a lengthy conversation with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.

Late Monday, United Airlines separately warned that the problem could affect more than 15,000 of its flights, 1.25 million passengers and whine tons of cargo annually.

United said it faces “significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s and regional aircraft in major cities such as Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.”

The airlines are requesting “that 5G be implemented throughout the country except within the approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) from the airport runways” at some major airports.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruptions for air passengers, freight forwarders, the supply chain and the delivery of necessary medical supplies,” they said.

The airlines added that flight restrictions will not be limited to bad weather operations.

“Several modern aircraft safety systems will be considered unusable and cause a much bigger problem than we knew … Aircraft manufacturers have informed us that there are huge parts of the operational fleet that may need to be grounded indefinitely.”

One area of ​​concern is whether some or all of the Boeing 777s will not be able to land at any major U.S. airports after the 5G service launches, as well as some Boeing cargo planes, airline officials told Reuters.

The airlines called for measures to ensure that “5G is deployed except when the towers are too close to the airport runways until the FAA can determine how it can be safely achieved without catastrophic disruption.”

The FAA said on Sunday that they had approved an estimated 45% of the US commercial aircraft fleet to make low-level landings at many airports where 5G C-bands will be used and they expect to issue more approvals before Wednesday. The airlines noted on Monday that the list does not include many large airports.


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