U.S. airlines have called for “immediate intervention” by the FAA to halt implementation of 5G cell networks within two miles of affected airport runways, calling the harm that will result from the planned rollout on January 19 “substantially worse” than originally anticipated.
In a January 17 letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, Federal Communications Commission chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, and White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Airlines for America (A4A) issued an “urgent request” that 5G not go into operation within two miles of affected airport runways. It further asked that the FAA immediately identify the base stations close to “key” airport runways “to be addressed to ensure safety and avoid disruption in a manner that is narrowly focused and consistent with the agreement established on January 3, 2022.”
In the letter, the airlines expressed concern that most of the 50 large airports identified by the FAA for relief will remain subject to flight restrictions on January 19. Referencing a January 16 statement by the FAA indicating that it had cleared some 45 percent of the U.S. commercial aircraft fleet for operation in low-visibility condition at 48 of the 88 airports directly affected by 5G C-band interference, A4A said the agency minimizes the fact that it has not granted relief to airports used by most of the traveling public.
“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” said A4A. “This means that on a day like [January 16], more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions, or delays. Second, flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations. Because radio altimeters provide critical information to other safety and navigation systems in modern airplanes, multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable, causing a much larger problem than what we knew on January 5, 2022.”
The group further noted that aircraft manufacturers have informed it that operators would need to ground “huge swaths” of the U.S. fleet, creating not only serious disruption domestically but potentially stranding “tens of thousands” of Americans overseas.
“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” said A4A. “Given the short time frame and the exigency of this completely avoidable economic calamity, we respectfully request your support and take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption. We stand ready and eager to continue our work with the U.S. government and mobile wireless providers on finding a solution set that allows 5G to expand to the C-band while also protecting aviation from devastating operational restrictions. However, immediate action is necessary to provide ample time for those discussions to move forward in any meaningful way.”