Airline CEOS warn of 'catastrophic' aviation crisis when 5G rolls out

Major airline CEOs warn of ‘catastrophic’ aviation crisis when delayed 5G roll out finally begins Wednesday: FAA warns 100,000 passengers could face delays or cancelations and some planes could be grounded PERMANENTLY

  • The CEOS of some of America’s largest airlines wrote to federal government officials warning that a new 5G service could cause disruptions
  • In the letter to federal officials, the CEOs wrote that when AT&T and Verizon’s new service goes live on Wednesday it could affect commerce 
  • The FAA has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and impact on low-visibility operations 
  • 5G could also affect airplane’s safety features

The chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers on Monday warned of an impending ‘catastrophic’ aviation crisis on Wednesday when AT&T and Verizon finally deploy their new 5G services.

The two companies have spent tens of billions of dollars to license the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz frequency range for its new high-speed C-Band 5G service.

But officials with the FAA and airplane manufacturer Boeing have warned that there is potential for interference with vital aircraft instruments that operate in the 4.2 to 44 GHz range, such as radio altimeters that tell pilots their altitude as they fly in low visibility. 

In short, the fear is that false altitude readings could confuse pilots as they approach the runway in poor visibility conditions, with potentially disastrous results. 

The executives warned that some planes could even be grounded permanently over the safety concerns.

And on a day like Sunday when winter weather gripped the nation, the CEOs claim in their letter that interference to airplanes’ altimeters could result in ‘more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays.’

Other planes could be grounded permanently because the altimeter provides signals to their mandated safety features. 

Action is urgent, they added in the letter, writing: ‘To be blunt, the nation´s commerce will grind to a halt.’ 

It was signed by the chief executives of American Airlines, JetBlue Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, as well as officials from FedEx Express and UPS Airlines.

The CEOs of some of the nation’s largest airlines wrote to federal officials on Monday warning about the potential negative effects of 5G

Verizon and AT&T have since agreed to push back the launch of their new service from January 4, but it is now set to debut on Wednesday.

THE EVOLUTION OF MOBILE BROADBAND UP TO 5G 

The evolution of the G system started in 1980 with the invention of the mobile phone which allowed for analogue data to be transmitted via phone calls.   

Digital came into play in 1991 with 2G and SMS and MMS capabilities were launched. 

Since then, the capabilities and carrying capacity for the mobile network has increased massively. 

More data can be transferred from one point to another via the mobile network quicker than ever.

5G is expected to be 100 times faster than the currently used 4G. 

Whilst the jump from 3G to 4G was most beneficial for mobile browsing and working, the step to 5G will be so fast they become almost real-time. 

That means mobile operations will be just as fast as office-based internet connections.

Potential uses for 5g include: 

  • Simultaneous translation of several languages in a party conference call 
  • Self-driving cars can stream movies, music and navigation information from the cloud
  • A full length 8GB film can be downloaded in six seconds. 

5G is expected to be so quick and efficient it is possible it could start the end of wired connections.  

By the end of 2020, industry estimates claim 50 billion devices will be connected to 5G.

When that happens, the airline CEOs warned federal officials on Monday, a significant number of widebody aircrafts will become unusable and  ‘could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas.’

‘Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,’ the CEOs wrote.

‘The harm that will result from deployment on January 19 is substantially worse than we anticipated for two key reasons,’ they explained.

For one, they said, even though the FAA announced it had cleared for use two radar altimeters used in some Boeing and Airbus jets so they could perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed, the list did not include many large airports.

Additionally, they argued, because radio altimeters provide critical information to other safety and navigation systems in modern airplanes, multiple modern safety systems ‘will be deemed unusable.’

‘Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.’ 

‘The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable,’ the CEOs wrote as they asked officials ‘that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways’ at some key airports.

‘Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.’

The carriers added they urge action to ensure ‘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.’ 

The letter, which was obtained by DailyMail.com, went to White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. The government agencies did not immediately comment. 

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, on January 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months. 

They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily averting an aviation safety standoff.

The CEOs of major airlines and Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun held a lengthy call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.

But the issue doesn’t just affect airplanes – they could also have a negative effect on the nation’s helicopters, including lifesaving medevac choppers.

Under US law, all commercial helicopters must have a working altimeter in order to fly. Without them, officials warn, landing in remote areas or on hospital landing pads will be near impossible.

Helicopter Association International petitioned the FAA in October asking for medevacs to be exempt from the law when 5G rolls out, and the FAA granted it last week for areas where 5G C-Band interference could affect the radio altimeter. 

Airlines CEOs URGE the federal government to take action on 5G 

‘Despite the recent collaboration and data sharing between the telecommunications industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry, commercial aviation in the United States is facing major disruption of the traveling and shipping public based on our evaluation of the data and discussions that have been ongoing to resolve the issue of how best to deploy 5G “C-band” in a safe manner around U.S. airports.

‘We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways at affected airports as defined by the FAA on January 19, 2022. This will allow 5G to be deployed while avoiding harmful impacts on the aviation industry, traveling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy. 

‘We further ask that the FAA immediately identify those base stations closest to key airport runways that need 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.

‘Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies. The harm that will result from deployment on January 19 is substantially worse than we originally anticipated for two key reasons.

‘First, we understand that most of the 50 large airports that were identified by the FAA for relief will still be subject to flight restrictions on January 19. The FAA’s statement yesterday minimizes the fact that they are not granting relief to airports that are used by most of the traveling and shipping public. Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded. 

‘This means that on a day like yesterday, 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.   

‘Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded. In addition to the chaos caused domestically, this lack of usable widebody aircraft could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas. 

‘The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable. Every one of the passenger and cargo carriers will be struggling to get people, shipments, planes and crews where they need to be. To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.

‘Given the short time frame and the exigency of this completely avoidable economic calamity, we respectfully request you 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.’

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